Keeping America Safe / Opinion / Politics

The Good Guy with a Gun – Five Years Later


This November 5th marks the five-year anniversary of the shootings at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a man wearing military-grade body armor shot and killed twenty-six parishioners. AMAC had the opportunity to talk with Stephen Willeford, the hero whose quick actions wounded the shooter and drew him away from the church.

Stephen Willeford is a former plumber who is employed by the Gun Owners of America (GOA) serving as the group’s national spokesperson and grassroots liaison. He is also an AMAC member, and he shares his thoughts on how this transformative experience changed his life. This “good guy with a gun” also discusses his views on the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, gun violence, recent gun legislation, and the Second Amendment.

AMAC: It has been almost five years since you confronted the mass shooter at the First Baptist Church in your hometown. How has this experience influenced your life moving forward?

Stephen: Wow. So, nothing is the same anymore. I used to be a plumber at a major metropolitan hospital working maintenance, and now I travel the country and fight for our right to keep and bear arms and train churches to set up safety response teams, and that is what I do for a living now. I would say I am more aware of what is around me. Although I was pretty aware before that happened also. But my life has totally changed.

AMAC: Can you tell us how you think the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas was handled?

Stephen: Well, you know, I usually try to give the police department a lot of credit. There were so many failures. It’s ridiculous that a lady ran in where the Uvalde Police Department refused to. She ran in and got her children and other children out safely, which is unacceptable. The police should have been handling and gotten in there much sooner. They could have been in within 3 minutes, and they were not.

But this does talk to the idea that you are your own first responder. You cannot bet on the police department to save you, you’re going to have to save yourself and in this case, your community. Also, I would hope that the police are better trained than what happened in Uvalde, and for the most part, they are. I usually give them the benefit of the doubt, but in this case, they failed miserably.

AMAC: What, in your opinion, can be done to discourage gun violence in schools?

Stephen: We need to start training our teachers to be able to carry within their classrooms. Again, like I say, when seconds count, police are only minutes away. And we need to train our teachers and our staff, their staff members, and the school faculty need to understand and be aware and need to be able to carry within schools.

We need to be able to lock our [school] doors. And that was a major failing. Alarms should have been going off. There should be no reason that we leave our doors for schools unlocked. There should be school resource officers at any door. And we need to do away with gun-free zones and allow parents, when dropping off and picking up their children, to be able to carry.

AMAC: Is the root of the many problems we are facing as a society now something deeper than government has the capacity to address?

Stephen: Well, the government has been trying to divide us in social and economic ways, and they’ve been trying to divide races for so long. They have created that. And I truly believe that they they’re trying to make it where police are the bad guys and defund the police. But they do not need to defund them. They actually need to fund them more, give them better training and better tools. But they need to make it where police are not afraid to respond.

Police nowadays are afraid of doing the right thing, afraid they will get prosecuted themselves. And it’s time that we get back to respecting police and the government isn’t the answer. Ronald Reagan said it best when he said the government’s the problem, not the answer, not the solution.

AMAC: Do you think the bipartisan gun legislation signed by Joe Biden in June will have an effect on gun violence?

Stephen: Absolutely I think it will. I think it [gun violence] will absolutely go up. I think that red flag laws without due process, you know, this country was founded on due process and being innocent until proven guilty, and red flag laws negate that. In Maryland, there was a case where a mother-in-law claimed that her ex-son-in-law was violent and dangerous and had guns. They kicked in his door in a no-knock warrant. He came out not knowing it was the police with a pistol in the hand [and] they shot and killed him. And that was unfortunate. He had never committed a felony in his life. And it was just from the word of his ex-mother-in- law that got that warrant to be served.

We in America have the right to the assumption of innocent until proven guilty. Red flag laws tend to come in and take all your guns and your property away, and then you must prove that you’re okay and that costs money. So red flag laws are not the answer. They want to make it harder for 18-year-olds to own semi-automatic rifles and pistols. And I have a problem with that, because 18-year-olds serve our country in foreign lands with a fully automatic M-16 and drive M-1 Abrams tanks. This is not a maturity issue. This is a mental health issue. The shooter in Sutherland Springs was 26 years old. The shooter in Vegas was 60 something years old. It is not maturity. It is mental health.

AMAC: So,you think that gun violence will go up because of this bipartisan legislation?

Stephen: Any time you restrict good guys from having guns, that creates a problem where no one can stop a shooter. Case in point, the Buffalo, New York shooting where the guy [shooter] went specifically knowing that [area] was the lowest percentage of concealed permits in the United States. And so, his numbers were up because no one can defend themselves.

AMAC: How can law abiding gun owners protect themselves from the attacks on their right to bear arms?

Stephen: Well, they need to get with their legislators, the federal government, and they need to push their state representatives, especially their state representatives. They need to push for more freedom to be able to carry and to stop the infringement. They need to get active in the political realm. They need to support groups like the GOA.

AMAC: Final question, Stephen. What does the Second Amendment mean to you?

Stephen: The Second Amendment does not grant the right to keep and bear arms, because anything granted by the government can be taken away. Instead, the Second Amendment is recognizing that we have a God-given right to bear arms for protection and stop tyrannical government. What the Second Amendment does is restrict the government from infringing upon the God-given right we have to keep and bear arms.

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Charles L Bloss, Jr.
7 months ago

I was moved by this article, and the value of having trained armed citizens step in to dangerous situations and change the outcome positively. Well done, Sir.

7 months ago

I had the fortunate opportunity to meet and here his story at a GOA rally in Warminster Pa What a great gentleman

J. Farley
7 months ago

I wish I could meet and talk to this great American, he understands our God given rights, I have to points of view on the issue of Gun control, first: when Guns are outlawed only the outlaws will have Guns and second: when only the Police have guns, you live in a police state.
The 2nd Amendment only affirms your God given right, and since it is in the Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights and is covered by Article 5 of the Constitution that delineates the manner in which the Constitution be altered and any and all laws that regulate the sale position, transfer, and type at the Federal Government, State, County or Towns or Cities are un-Constitutional and should be ruled so by the Supreme Courts.
The 1st, 2nd, 4th affirm your God given rights as they refer to the Right of the People.
The only way you can lose your God given rights is to comitt an act so egregious that you cannot be trusted and only after due process.
If you believe in any form of Gun Control, you have an idiot thinking for you!

7 months ago
Reply to  J. Farley

Finally someone who understands and can express succinctly exactly what the 2nd amendment means. Too bad those morons in DC can’t read and understand this. Joey and his cabal seem to think it is their duty to read the Constitution and its amendments to suit themselves. All of them should be held and charged with malfeasance and incompetence and discharged from the positions they now hold so that we can elect people capable of reading and understanding the English language. They should also be required to read and take a test on the writings of our founding fathers on the reasons for and meaning of the Constitution and its amendments.

Judy G
7 months ago

This is an awesome article. I believe Mr. Willeford’s comments and responses were very relevant and good common sense.

Robert Zuccaro
7 months ago

Gun Free Zones are like chum in the water… shooters like places they know no one but THEM are armed.

7 months ago

The naivete of liberal politicians and the left in general is appalling. No gun zones are nothing more than free fire victim zones for criminals with guns. With the push to cripple law abiding citizens from keeping a bearing firearms will only cause an increase in violent crime.

William McBreen
7 months ago

So glad I joined AMAC!

7 months ago

Very well spoken and intelligent man. Our politicians could learn a lot from him.

Bruce Parker
7 months ago
Reply to  jcbfam

But they wont.

David Millikan
7 months ago


7 months ago

An excellent article and interview from AMAC on a very important issue. The only people affected by so-called gun control legislation are the law abiding people of this country. It leaves them unable to protect themselves from criminals, who know the police can’t be everywhere and appear at a moment’s notice. Criminals, by their very nature, do NOT care about laws in general. So no amount of so-called “sensible gun control laws” will do anything to deter the criminal element from inflicting injury and death on an unarmed citizenry.

Bruce Parker
7 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

THAT is what the government refuses to acknowledge.

Man of Steel
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Parker

Power is corrupting!! That is why people in power want to stay in power and the reason why the PEOPLE should require term limits. A Convention of States could provide such an avenue.

Michael J
7 months ago

Society is safer when criminals don’t know who’s armed. Democrats have been trying to disarm law-abiding citizens at every turn and yet they have no idea how to get criminals to comply. Only those who follow the laws can be legislated and disarmed.
Criminals know that and so do the dems.

Betty Perley
7 months ago

Thank you, Stephen Willeford for your clear understanding and explanation of our gun rights!

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