Sutherland Springs hero speaks out on calls for gun control

'I think these kids don't understand'

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - As calls for stricter gun laws continue in the wake of the Parkland shooting, the man credited with confronting the Sutherland Springs church shooter, which preventing further casualties is not among them.

"All the laws in the world aren't going to stop a bad guy for getting a gun," Stephen Willeford said Friday, standing outside the church where he shot at Devin Patrick Kelley.

Willeford is widely hailed as a hero for his actions Nov. 5, when he ran from his house with his AR-15 style rifle. The Sutherland Springs native traded shots with Kelley, and when the shooter drove off, Willeford hopped in a pickup truck to chase him down.

Related: Sutherland Springs Church Shooting Coverage

The SUV Kelley was driving ended up off the road, and he was found dead with three gunshot wounds, one of which was self-inflicted.

As Willeford spoke to journalists following a news conference for the newly passed "Fix NICS Act," he was asked about the recent increase in calls for gun control. 

"I think these kids don't understand. They don't understand history," he said. "They confiscate guns and then the tyrannical governments take over."

Willeford said he might be able to find common ground on "something" with the kids, "but not a Second Amendment something."
  
"Common ground as far as dealing with mental illness and dealing with the background checks, making sure that the bad guys don't get guns and stuff -- if they would find common ground with training teachers and putting metal detectors up at the doors of schools and stuff -- that would be common ground that would make a difference," Willeford said.

Related: Sen. Cornyn visits Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church

Speaking at the news conference Friday morning, Willeford thanked Sen. John Cornyn for being a "tireless defendant (sic) of our Second Amendment rights" and for the "Fix NICS Act" that Willeford said protects the community.

The act, originally sponsored by Cornyn after the Sutherland Springs shooting, was signed into law on March 23 by President Donald Trump as part of an omnibus spending bill. The law gives states and federal agencies incentives for uploading information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

During the investigation of the church shooting, officials said Kelley shouldn't have been able to purchase the semi-automatic rifle due to a domestic violence conviction that wasn't reported by the Air Force. If the conviction had been reported, a criminal background check would have shown up in a gun purchase application and would have prohibited Kelly from purchasing the weapon. 

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