Details are still emerging that describe the horror that unfolded last night inside Emanuel AME Zion Church in Charleston, SC shortly after 9:00 PM.

Shortly after 8:16 PM,  5’9″, 120 lbs white male named Dylann Storm Roof* entered Emanuel and found the bible study group meeting in the church basement. Roof asked to sit beside the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. It is unknown at this time if Roof knew who Pinckney was, or if he merely wanted to ensure that he was targeting a member of the clergy.

After observing the Bible study for some time, Roof allegedly drew a handgun at approximately 9:05 PM and stated to his victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Eight of Roof’s victims died in the church basement. A ninth died at the hospital.  Six of the victims were women and three were men, including Pastor Pinckney. A child survived the massacre by playing dead. Another woman was intentionally left alive by Roof to tell the story as a witness.

The Killer’s Gun

Reuters talked to the shooter’s uncle, Carson Cowles. Cowles stated that Roof was given a .45-caliber pistol by his father in April as a birthday present. This is one month after Roof was arrested in March on drug charges. It is not known at this time if Roof’s father was aware of the drug charges, or if he knew that the charges clearly made his son a “prohibited person” according to ATF From 4473, question 11.e., which disqualifies “unlawful users” of controlled substances from owning firearms.

Gun control supporters will no doubt attempt to assert that so-called “universal” background checks would have prevented the transfer. Rational people know that such a claim isn’t remotely grounded in reality, and that background checks are routinely ignored in transfers between family members, even in states where they are already required.

The specific brand and model of the pistol is no doubt known to law enforcement at this time, but that information has not yet been released to the media.

We are told from eyewitness accounts that Roof reloaded five times.

A (Mostly) Gun-Free Zone

Under South Carolina’s concealed carry laws, concealed carry requires “express permission” of church officials or the governing body:

A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a:

(1) police, sheriff, or highway patrol station or any other law enforcement office or facility;

(2) detention facility, prison, or jail or any other correctional facility or office;

(3) courthouse or courtroom;

(4) polling place on election days;

(5) office of or the business meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special purpose district;

(6) school or college athletic event not related to firearms;

(7) daycare facility or pre-school facility;

(8) place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law;

(9) church or other established religious sanctuary unless express permission is given by the appropriate church official or governing body; 

As a practical matter, this means most churches in the state of South Carolina are “gun free zones.” This tends to be especially true in traditionally black and urban churches like Emanuel AME Zion Church, where gun control is supported more widely than the population in general.

The Only Thing That Stops a Bad Guy With A Gun…

It is entirely cliched, but it is entirely true to state that the majority of mass shootings in the United States conclude when someone else with a firearm closes in on the mass killer.

In mass killings the majority of suspects either die from suicide, are shot, or surrender when someone else with a firearm arrives.

This particularly heinous crime ended because of an even more horrific reason: there was seemingly no one left to kill that the murderer wanted to die.

As Roof was able to allegedly load his firearm five times, there was plenty of time for a concealed carrier or uniformed armed guard to act and contest this killing spree.

We strongly suggest that churches follow the lead of those congregations that have a volunteer security force on hand, such as the one that blunted a similar massacre attempt by a more heavily-armed attacker at New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 2007

Pastors, if you love your flocks, you must see that they are protected.

Update: The suspect has been captured on I-74 west of Shelby, NC, after an alert citizen spotted his vehicle and called 911.

* Bearing Arms maintained a long-standing policy of not naming mass shooters, thus giving them the sick recognition that they crave. We are deviating from that today because Dylann Storm Roof is still a fugitive and a still a deadly threat who needs to be apprehended.