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The Good Guy With a Gun

On the morning of Sunday, November 5, Stephen Willeford performed a courageous act of faith and heroism. After being alerted by his daughter that a mass shooting was occurring at the First Baptist Church, Stephen Willeford wasted no time in his response.


A native of Wilson County, Stephen had been raised on the foundation of faith, family and community. His dedication to his faith and community led him to his courageous effort to save innocent lives. Grabbing his AR-15 and a handful of bullets, Stephen embodied the “good guy with a gun” persona as he rushed to the First Baptist Church. Shots were still ringing in the air and Stephen knew the harsh truth—each shot represented the life of one of his neighbors.


Stephen confronted the shooter without hesitation, shouting as he approached the place of worship to draw the shooter outside. His many hours logged at the gun range and his years of experience in gun safety helped prepare him in this response. Though his expert training and practice were used in this decisive moment, Stephen credits his faith in God for keeping him calm and focused throughout this unimaginable situation.


On that November morning, 26 lives were lost and 20 were injured in the tragic shooting. Stephen Willeford will be the first to tell you that he stepped in and did what anyone would have done, but it was Stephen’s unique background and his faith in God that helped him act so courageously in his effort to save his friends, neighbors and community.