‘The Problem Is Not Guns’: How Texas Gov. Abbott Responded To 7 Mass Shootings

Second Amendment


Texas has seen at least seven mass shootings in public places since Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took office — including the state’s worst mass shooting and its deadliest school shooting — and nearly every time, he has dismissed calls to strengthen gun regulations while simultaneously expanding the rights of gun owners.

“People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue,” Abbott, a potential 2024 presidential contender, said in an interview with Fox News after this month’s shooting in Allen, Texas, that killed eight people.

Abbott’s proposed solutions for gun violence have included increasing penalties for illegal gun use, prayer, more body armor and investments in mental health.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association’s 2018 annual meeting and exhibit in Dallas. Abbott told the crowd that “the problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.” Two weeks later, a gunman killed 10 people at a Texas high school. He vowed action to ensure that violence was “never repeated.”

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Abbott has funneled $25 billion into the state’s behavioral health plan so far, according to the Texas Tribune, though the state ranked dead last in the U.S. last year for access to mental health care, according to a recent report from the nonprofit Mental Health America. A recent analysis by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune also found that the majority of the state’s 19 mass shootings over the past six decades were carried out by men who had legally acquired firearms.

Texas lawmakers, under his leadership, have meanwhile made it easier to carry a gun in public and harder for local governments to regulate them. They have legalized gun silencers and made Texas a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State” that protects residents from federal gun control regulations amid rising calls to raise the age to buy semi-automatic weapons, ban high-capacity magazines and strengthen background checks.

banner

“Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session,” Abbott said in 2021.

Here’s a look back at the last seven public mass shootings in Texas, how the perpetrator obtained their weapon, and how the governor responded.

Dallas Downtown Police Shooting (July 7, 2016):

An Army reservist fatally shot five police officers and injured 11 others during a Black Lives Matter protest against recent police killings. It was reported as the deadliest assault on law enforcement in the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The shooter:

The 25-year-old gunman legally purchased the firearms used in the attack, including an assault-style rifle, authorities said. He did not have a criminal record in Texas and was honorably discharged from the military, though it was later revealed that he faced sexual harassment allegations while serving in the military overseas and that he may have received that honorable discharge due to an administrative error.

Dallas’ police chief said the shooter, who was Black, told police that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” as payback for the killings of Black men.

Police officers attend the funeral of slain police officer Patrick Zamarripa in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2016. Zamarripa was one of five officers killed when a gunman opened fire on a Black Lives Matter rally.
Police officers attend the funeral of slain police officer Patrick Zamarripa in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2016. Zamarripa was one of five officers killed when a gunman opened fire on a Black Lives Matter rally.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Abbott’s response:

Abbott made it a hate crime to commit a crime against a law enforcement officer out of bias against the police. He also transferred $24 million to 476 law enforcement agencies for the purchase of over 43,000 rifle-resistant body armor vests.

The Dallas mayor unsuccessfully proposed banning civilians from carrying rifles and shotguns in public due to the chaos they caused during the search for the shooter. The city’s police chief at the time said authorities had difficulty identifying the gunman because there were up to 30 civilians openly carrying rifles during the protest, which has been legal in Texas for decades. Texas also made it legal to carry handguns in public without a permit in 2021.

“We don’t know who the good guy is versus the bad guy when everyone starts shooting,” said Dallas’ then-police chief, David Brown.

Ryland Ward was 5 years old when he was shot multiple times by a gunman at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. He shows off a gunshot wound to his left arm in 2022. He also has a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/13/sutherland-springs-victims-lawsuit/" target="_blank" role="link" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="similar, albeit larger," data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="645be957e4b0c10612e92328" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/13/sutherland-springs-victims-lawsuit/" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="16">similar, albeit larger,</a> injury on his left thigh.
Ryland Ward was 5 years old when he was shot multiple times by a gunman at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. He shows off a gunshot wound to his left arm in 2022. He also has a similar, albeit larger, injury on his left thigh.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sutherland Springs Church Shooting (Nov. 5, 2017):

A 26-year-old former airman killed 26 people and injured 20 others at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. It was the state’s worst mass shooting in modern history and the fifth-deadliest shooting in the nation’s history.

The shooter:

The gunman had a criminal history that should have prevented him from purchasing firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Abbott also said that Texas denied the shooter a license to carry a gun.

He was regardless able to purchase a Ruger AR-556 used in the shooting because the Air Force did not properly share the former airman’s criminal records with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. A federal judge last year found that the government was liable for damages because of that failure and the Justice Department in April reached a $144.5 million settlement with the victims.

Abbott’s response:

Abbott repeatedly pushed religion and God as the solution to prevent gun violence and dismissed calls for gun reform.

“The answer to gun violence is not to take guns away, the answer is to strengthen the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Abbott said at an NRA conference ― exactly two weeks before a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. “The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”

Last year, the governor cited the Air Force’s failure to supply the gunman’s criminal records as proof that background checks to purchase firearms don’t work. In 2021, he signed a bill to allow Texans to carry handguns without undergoing a background check and training.

An attorney for the Sutherland Springs victims told Texas Public Radio that Abbot’s claim that background checks don’t work was misleading and “not true,” given the federal judge’s ruling that faulted the Air Force.

“The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”

– Greg Abbott after the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting that killed 26 people

Santa Fe High School Shooting (May 18, 2018):

A 17-year-old killed 10 people ― eight students and two teachers ― and injured 13 others at Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston.

The shooter:

The gunman used a shotgun and revolver that were legally owned by his father. The shooter’s attorney said the teen had no history of mental health or legal issues, though a judge later ruled him incompetent to stand trial. The teen’s parents were later sued for negligence by the victims’ families.

Abbott’s response:

Abbott said prayers are not enough and that action is needed “to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.”

“We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” he said. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas.”

Abbott scheduled mostly private roundtable discussions with the Texas legislature and community members, including parents, students, teachers, shooting survivors and gun rights advocates.

He later signed three bills that would require school districts to have a school safety and security team and safety training for teachers and substitutes. He also expanded access to mental and behavioral health services in schools and removed a cap on the number of school marshals allowed on campuses.

Some of the survivors later expressed disappointment with Abbott’s actions ― particularly after the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde ― saying they weren’t strong enough.

“It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas.”

– Greg Abbott after the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting that killed 10 people

El Paso Walmart Shooting (Aug. 4, 2019):

A 21-year-old killed 23 people and injured 22 others at a Walmart in El Paso. It was the nation’s eighth-deadliest mass shooting ― a ranking it shares with the 1991 shooting at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas.

The shooter:

The gunman purchased the AK-style rifle used in the attack legally, authorities said. He told police that he had ordered the rifle online from Romania and he picked it up at a gun store near his Dallas home.

The self-proclaimed white nationalist said he was targeting “Mexicans” and that he selected the U.S.-Mexico border city ― roughly 650 miles west of his home ― in hopes of dissuading immigrants from coming to the United States. In February he pleaded guilty to 90 federal hate crimes and firearms violations.

Abbott’s response:

Abbott blamed mental illness and said he didn’t think “red flag” laws could have stopped the gunman, though his office also said that the shooter’s mother had expressed concerns to law enforcement about her son prior to the attack.

A man cries beside a cross at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019. Abbott blamed mental illness and said he didn’t think “red flag” laws could have stopped the gunman.
A man cries beside a cross at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019. Abbott blamed mental illness and said he didn’t think “red flag” laws could have stopped the gunman.

Midland-Odessa shooting (Aug. 31, 2019):

A 36-year-old killed seven people and injured 25 others at random during a shooting spree that spanned 10 miles and lasted for more than an hour.

The shooter:

The gunman failed a federal criminal background check, reportedly due to a “mental health issue,” while attempting to buy a firearm in 2014. He ultimately got around this snag by purchasing the AR-style rifle he used in the shooting through a private seller in 2016. Private sales are not subject to a federal background check, and Texas does not have its own state requirement for comprehensive background checks when purchasing a firearm.

Abbott’s response:

Abbott jointly responded to the shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, which occurred within three weeks of one another, with eight executive orders designed to strengthen the public and law enforcement’s ability to flag potential threats.

Crosses honor the 21 people fatally shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last year. Abbott said the shooting "could have been worse." It was the state’s deadliest school shooting.
Crosses honor the 21 people fatally shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last year. Abbott said the shooting “could have been worse.” It was the state’s deadliest school shooting.

MARK FELIX via Getty Images

Uvalde Elementary School Shooting (May 24, 2022):

An 18-year-old fatally shot 19 students and 2 teachers inside two fourth-grade classrooms at Robb Elementary School, roughly 80 miles west of San Antonio. It was the state’s deadliest school shooting.

The shooter:

The gunman used two assault-style rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition that he purchased legally at a local gun store just days after his 18th birthday and days before the attack, authorities said.

Abbott’s response:

“It could have been worse,” Abbott told Texans a day after the killings.

“The reality is, as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse. The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do: They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives,” he said.

Abbott later backtracked when a damning report came out finding that it took law enforcement officers more than an hour to enter the school and engage the shooter.

“The reality is, as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse.”

– Greg Abbott after the 2022 Uvalde elementary school shooting that killed 21 people

Abbott continued after to insist that stronger regulations on firearms are ineffective and won’t stop crime. He dismissed calls by the Uvalde victims’ families to raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles, saying doing so would be unconstitutional.

His solution instead was to move $105.5 million to support school safety and mental health initiatives. The bulk of it — $50 million — went toward buying bullet-resistant shields.

Allen outlet mall shooting (May 6, 2023):

A 33-year-old killed eight people and wounded seven others, three critically, at an outlet mall in Allen, just northeast of Dallas.

The shooter:

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the man had no criminal record and had legally purchased the AR-15-style rifle that was used in the attack ― as well as seven other guns found on him.

A suspected motive has not been released, though the shooter, who died at the scene, has been described as having had a “neo-Nazi ideation.” He had a patch on him that is popular among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Two teenagers hold protest signs outside a prayer vigil after a mass shooting in Allen, Texas, on May 6. The sign on the left appears to reference a man having said that <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/allen-premium-outlets-shooting-responder_n_6457c59ee4b0ff22e37b21c2" target="_blank" role="link" class=" js-entry-link cet-internal-link" data-vars-item-name="he found a girl without a face" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="645be957e4b0c10612e92328" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/allen-premium-outlets-shooting-responder_n_6457c59ee4b0ff22e37b21c2" data-vars-target-content-type="buzz" data-vars-type="web_internal_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="46">he found a girl without a face</a> while attempting to aid the shooting victims.
Two teenagers hold protest signs outside a prayer vigil after a mass shooting in Allen, Texas, on May 6. The sign on the left appears to reference a man having said that he found a girl without a face while attempting to aid the shooting victims.

Abbott’s response:

Abbott immediately blamed “mental health problems” and dismissed calls for gun reform. He said he has offered local officials the state’s full support and assistance in the shooting’s wake.

A Texas House committee advanced a bill two days after the shooting that would raise the minimum age to buy some semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill was endorsed by relatives of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting in 2022. The bill is expected to face tough opposition from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether he plans any additional legislative action in response to the Allen shooting or whether he will support the proposed bill to raise the age minimum for semi-automatic rifles.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *