The story of St. Peter’s Church in rural Pennsylvania has taken on a new meaning as it becomes a target for gun rights advocates, with a gun rights group calling on lawmakers to investigate the church for possible links to the gunman who killed 26 people in Las Vegas.
St. Paul’s Church, in Woonsocket, Pennsylvania, was the first in the nation to be forced to close because of gun violence, and the church was the focus of a major national gun violence prevention effort.
The gunman used the church as a safe haven, with multiple people identified as attending.
“The church has a history of violence, but they’ve also had an ongoing history of healing,” said James J. Cates, president of the gun rights advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
“If you look at St. Peters’ history, the church has had a lot of healing.
There’s been a lot going on in their community.
It was never the place for gun violence.”
The gunman was identified as Stephen Paddock, an avid gambler who went by the name of “the Sin City Man” and who was killed by police.
Paddock was known to churchgoers as a “gun guy,” according to local media.
Paddock, who reportedly bought weapons at gun shows and pawn shops, also allegedly used the name St. Nicholas.
Authorities identified Paddock as a frequent patron at St Peter’s.
According to court records, he was arrested in 2014 after a long-running investigation into his alleged relationship with his ex-wife, Marilou Danley.
He also had a long history of mental illness and was a registered sex offender.
Danley, who died in 2015, was believed to be his ex.
The church has been the subject of a number of gun rights efforts, including one from a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which calls for churches to be destroyed.
In 2015, the NRA filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking a restraining order against the church, saying it is an “open and present danger to public safety.”
The church’s pastor, Robert J. Carlson, has not commented on the church’s closure.
“We do not comment on pending litigation,” Carlson wrote in an email to The Hill.
“Pastors should not be allowed to use the church in this way.”
Cates said it’s unclear how many other churches are targeted in the investigation.
He said it appears to be targeting churches with a history that has been documented.
“There’s a lot more than the gun,” he said.
“It’s the gun culture, it’s the culture of the culture.
It’s the idea that you can’t be a good Christian if you’re not a good person.
This is just a very troubling pattern.”
He added, “It is clear that this has been a longstanding problem in the church.”
In a statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, called the investigation into the church “an act of violence.”
“This investigation will be the most comprehensive ever conducted against churches in the United States, and will likely involve the seizure of their property, including the church itself,” the center said in a statement.
The investigation comes as a series of recent mass shootings in the U.S. have left scores dead and many others wounded.
Last week, a gunman killed 49 people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.L.S.’ history.