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TX – GUN RIGHTS – The hero of Sutherland Springs uses his newfound influence to advocate for gun rights

The military-style rifle that Stephen Willeford used to stop the gunman who took the lives of 26 worshipers First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs had not been fired since the morning of Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. In fact, it still has the tags authorities used to mark it as evidence in the hours after the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. Willeford shot and then engaged in a high-speed chase with the church gunman, who then shot himself in the head. Willeford carried the AR-15 with him to Austin on Thursday to illustrate his opposition to any effort he believes would roll back Second Amendment rights as the state grapples with yet another example of deadly gun violence. The rifle sits silent, at least for now, but Willeford does not. The events of Sutherland Springs thrust the bearded, gray-haired plumber with a Santa Claus build into a spotlight he didn’t seek and by most accounts, didn’t want. Before that he was also a firearms instructor, a staunch advocate of the right to bear arms, and in his words, “a very conservative man.” “I didn’t feel like I had a voice back then,” Willeford said in a short interview before the gun rights rally where he was to be the featured speaker. “I have a voice now. And when I speak, people tend to listen more than they did back then.” And when Willeford says “people,” that includes some very influential people. During Texas’ marquee political race last year, Willeford sometimes accompanied Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on the campaign trail. And he was an invited guest in the U.S. House chamber when President Donald Trump delivered his State of Union address in January 2018. [full article]

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