AUSTIN, Texas — (AP) — The weekend shooting at Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston is not the first time gunfire has caused panic and tragedy at a Texas house of worship.
It also underscored the ease of bringing weapons into sanctuaries in a state with few limits on gun possession, as well as a growing effort by some churches to provide armed security, either through volunteers or paid off-duty officers.
The shooting Sunday at Lakewood Church ended when two off-duty officers, who were working security, returned fire on a shooter who police say entered the building with an AR-style rifle and a backpack.
Police identified the shooter as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36. Authorities said Moreno's 7-year-old son, who the shooter brought into the church, was shot in the head and critically injured.
Here is a look at shootings at other places of worship in Texas and the laws surrounding firearms:
In November 2017, a gunman killed 26 people, including eight children, and wounded 20 more at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The gunman later died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire at the church.
In December 2019, a man pulled out a shotgun during a service at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement and killed two worshippers, before he was shot and killed by two congregants who were part of a volunteer security team.
In September 1999, a man shot and killed seven people and wounded seven others before taking his own life at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Texas does not require a license to carry a handgun or a rifle, although state law sets a handgun minimum age requirement at 21. Texas has also been an "open carry" state, which allows people to carry their weapons in plain view, since 2015, and eliminated the handgun license requirement in 2021.
In the first regular legislative session after the Sutherland Springs massacre, Texas lawmakers in 2019 clarified state law to allow the carrying of weapons in houses of worship, unless specifically banned by a congregation with written and oral notice.
Texas law does not require churches to provide armed security, although they are allowed to have volunteer security teams or hire security from law enforcement or licensed guards.
Police said the two Lakewood security team members who took down the shooter on Sunday are an off-duty officer from the Houston Police Department and a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent. Both will be placed on administrative leave while their respective agencies investigate the shooting.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner and other authorities at the scene praised the officers for taking down the shooter.
“They stepped up and did their job,” Finner said.
This story has been updated to correct the Lakewood Church shooter's son's age to 7, not 5.
Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.