The deadly shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs Sunday leaves us with many unanswered questions, but a few things are remarkably clear.

Among them: we can't help but be saddened that we find ourselves writing this same editorial with such distressing regularity; as a state and a nation, we mourn the deaths of innocents from yet another mass shooting, the death toll at 26 this time; and, perhaps most clear, none of us should allow the mind-numbing repetition of such events to inure us to this type of savagery.

We fear this is happening. This cannot be our normal. It happened. Again.

But this time closer to home. Sutherland Springs, population 362 according to the 2000 Census, is in Wilson County and is 21 miles east of San Antonio. The ages of the dead: 5 to 72. Parents, children, friends and relatives lost.

This time, these are Texans. This time, these are our neighbors, parishioners of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The identified shooter was found dead from a bullet wound in his crashed vehicle in neighboring Guadalupe County, unclear Sunday evening whether it was self-inflicted or from a citizen who fired on the gunman outside the church.

A citizen went to help and fired on the gunman, who was wearing black and had on a tactical vest. It's likely this citizen saved lives.

The weapon the murderer used for his deadly shooting spree was reportedly a Ruger assault-style rifle. He apparently dropped it after the citizen fired on him. Authorities found other guns in his car.

Any loss of innocent life is tragic, but to be killed while in a house of worship is particularly heinous. If any place should be safe, it should be a church, where people gather in peace, faith and fellowship — a place where among the commandments adhered to is thou shalt not kill.

But here's what else we know. Not even churches have been spared this carnage, as attests the slaughter at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 17, 2015. It is still fresh in memory.

As with any mass shooting, this is a tragedy, but it is compounded in this instance because, if the death toll remains at 26, this will amount to 7 percent of the small community's population. Residents likely will be related to or know someone killed in that church Sunday.

Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to these, this time our neighbors.

 

San Antonio Express-News