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After Texas church shooting, Alabama Attorney General offers guidance on church security

Attorney General Steve Marshall speaks on a proposed rewrite of the state ethics laws. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

After a church shooting in Texas, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has offered guidance on Alabama’s Stand-Your-Ground law and urged churches to take safety measures.

On Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire at the West Freeway Church of Christ in West Settlement, Texas, killing two people in attendance. The shooter was identified as 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen. 

A volunteer for the church’s armed security team, Jack Wilson, confronted the shooter almost immediately, firing a single shot which hit the gunman in the head, killing him.

Marshall issued a response on the shooting after receiving  inquiries from the press and the general public to offer guidance about the current state of the law in Alabama related to self-defense and the defense of others.

Alabama, like Texas, does not impose a duty to retreat from an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present. Section 13A-3-23(a) of the Alabama Code states:

“A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that person, and he or she may use a degree of force which he or she reasonably believes is necessary for the purpose. A person may use deadly physical force…if the person reasonably believes that another person is…using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.” 

Alabama’s law, like Texas’s, goes further to say that an individual has a right to “stand his or her ground” so long as he or she is justified in using deadly physical force, is not engaged in an illegal activity, and is in a place where he or she has a right to be located. Ala. Code §13-A-23(b).

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“The shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas was a sobering depiction of good vs. evil in our society today,” Marshall said in the statement. “Tragically, that congregation lost two of its members; yet mercifully, Jack Wilson spared the lives of many more. Texas law was recently updated to ensure that individuals like Mr. Wilson do not have to fear the threat of prosecution for carrying a firearm in a church that allows it.

“Fortunately, Alabama can proudly say that it already offers this same protection. We urge every church in our state to adopt a church security plan that will better ensure the safety of their members during worship.”

In his statement, Marshall urged every place of worship in Alabama to adopt and implement a church safety plan. Any church seeking guidance on church security may call the Attorney General’s Office for more information at (334) 242-7300.

 

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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