For the past week, I haven’t known what to do with my anger.
The evening news was trying to remind us that Memorial Day weekend was coming up, when we traditionally honor those who have fallen in the line of duty while serving our country. But by and large the news half-hour was dominated by the events in Uvalde, Texas—the senseless massacre of 19 children and two school teachers (and by extension, one husband) by an angry 18-year-old high-school dropout whose reasons and motivations will never be known. When I heard those Taps being played on the news, it just gutted me. But I confess, I wasn’t thinking about the military; I was thinking about those children. Those teachers.
I’m not a mother. I’ve never been a school teacher. I’ve never had the trauma of having a gun pointed at my face. Yet this particular mass shooting, piled on top of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting 5 years ago, and the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting 4 years ago, has created some kind of tipping point in me.
I’ve been struggling about whether to even write this blog post. This is not what my blog is about—commenting on current events. I’m not a journalist. I’ve picked up and put down this article maybe 10 times over the past several days, over the fear that it will alienate my subscriber base.
Once a week I receive a “writer’s prompt” in my email box, designed to help writers get past writer’s block, to jump-start creativity. This morning’s writer’s prompt was actually a quote and a prompt: “Anesthesia and amnesia are the two greatest sins of our culture. We forget and we go numb.” (Francis Weller) and the prompt was: “Describe a time you numbed yourself (anesthesia) or forgot (amnesia). How have these forces impacted your life?” (Laura Davis).
After reading that, I decided I could no longer numb myself to what was going on around me in Texas and in the US. Regardless of how small my platform may be, or who I may offend, I must speak out against gun violence and particularly the insanity that seems to have seized the state of Texas with our lax gun laws.
George W. Bush became governor of Texas in 1994. His predecessor was Ann Richards, a Democrat who refused to sign a concealed-carry handgun bill into law. George Bush ran against the incumbent Richards and won the election, and one of his campaign promises was that he would sign the first “Concealed Handgun License Bill” that came across his desk. True to his word, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 60 in 1995 and Governor Bush signed it.
Ann Richards was the last Democrat who held the office of Governor in the state of Texas; many Democrats have tried and failed to unseat this Republican stronghold for the past 26 years.
In these intervening years, I have watched the Republican leadership slowly bow to the enormous pressure of the gun lobby and whittle away at every common-sense protection and precaution there was in that original SB60 for purchasing and owning weapons of all kinds.
As much as I disagreed with that original concealed-carry law, at least these provisions were in place: a license was required for Texans to carry a handgun, whether it was carried openly or concealed. In order to obtain a license, an applicant had to be 21 years of age, fingerprinted, complete a training course (4 to 6 hours of training), take and pass a written exam as well as successfully complete a shooting proficiency exam. (Meanwhile, Texas made no such requirements to openly carry a rifle.)
26 years later, we ended up in the summer of 2021, with Governor Greg Abbott signing House Bill 1927, which became effective on September 1, 2021. This current law made it legal to openly carry a holstered handgun (so we’ve gone from concealed carry to open carry), but now no license is required to purchase it, and no training or proficiency exam are required. He also dropped the legal age from 21 to 18.
But Texas is not alone—this makes Texas the 20th state to enact a “Constitutional Carry Law,” as they like to call it. Just enacting our constitutional right to carry around a weapon.*
You have to ask yourself, who benefits from this law? Of what possible benefit is it to drop requirements of licensing, training, and lowering age requirements? The only group I can think of is gun sellers. They get their product to market that much faster.
So now if you are an 18-year-old in Texas, it is more difficult for you to buy a car or buy alcohol than it is to buy an AR-15. You cannot buy a drink but you can buy a weapon of war. You cannot get a car without a state driver’s license (for which you have to prove that you know how to operate the car safely), but you can buy a gun. For God’s sake, even the homeless have to jump through more hoops to apply for services in Houston, than an 18-year-old does to buy a gun!
The New York Times published a fascinating article and graphic this past week, showing how the United States is such an outlier when it comes to gun violence. You see, other countries have their fair share of mental illness, messed-up parents who inflict abuse on children, messed up spouses who inflict abuse on each other, alcohol and drug addiction, political unrest, all of it. This is not unique to America. What is unique to America is the sheer volume of guns available and our easy access to them.
This brings me to the issue of assault-type weapons. The Federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire in 2004, and the rise in mass shootings since then has skyrocketed. This is illustrated in the graphic below, which I saw in an article in the Financial Times, and they sourced at Mother Jones. It’s time to put this ban back into effect, permanently this time. I’m not talking about defunding police or anything like that; make sure the police have what they need to do their job. I’m talking about the general public—I don’t believe there is any reason for a peaceful public to own assault-style weapons. Standard rifles can be used for hunting.
Someone posted a comment on NextDoor this week regarding the shooting in Uvalde. It received more than 600 responses in just a few days, which is an enormous response for this social media outlet. People have lots to say about what happened, how the police responded, and about gun control in general.
But I was most shocked to read someone say how they believed this whole news item was fake, and the shooting in the Buffalo, New York grocery story was fake. It was all trumped up by our government, designed to whip up hysteria about gun control and take away guns from law-abiding people. She had videos to prove it (although none were posted).
And I wondered what the world is coming to. How is it possible that people really believe something like that? I wondered what the parents, who were planning funerals for their babies, would think about people spouting hateful lies like that.
In an interview this week, one Texas lawmaker said, “There’s no correlation between permitless carry and school shootings,” and I had to shriek at the TV. Excuse me?! Salvador Ramos, a day after he turned 18, went and bought an AR-15, not needing a license. A few days later he bought another one, plus tactical gear and about 375 rounds of ammunition. Then about a week later went and shot up the elementary school in Uvalde. Call me crazy, but that looks like a damn straight-line correlation to me.
We need substantial gun reform in this country. We need it handled at the Federal level. It appalls me that even though we have a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing our right to bear arms, we allow our states to micromanage the interpretation of this amendment. The laws regarding something so critical as the safety of our citizenry should be standardized across our nation. It is ridiculous that we can move from state to state and the laws regarding something so important change at state lines.
Both Governor Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz looked the Santa Fe parents in the eye and told them, after that mass shooting, “Something will be done. We will make sure this never happens again.” (See this article by Christina Delgado, from Santa Fe, printed in the Houston Chronicle on May 28, 2022: Essay: I’m a Texan from a gun-owning family who went to the NRA convention. Here’s why I’m furious.)**
Now, I guess we can call them on their BS.
I heard Senator Ted Cruz say this week, when he was confronted in a restaurant, “The changes you are pressing for won’t make a difference. You won’t get the results you are looking for.”
Well, I know this for a fact. Doing nothing will definitely make no difference.
I am reminded of one of the fundamental science lessons I learned in undergraduate school: entropy. The second law of thermodynamics. Systems, when left unattended, always end up in randomness and chaos.
Agree with me? Don’t agree with me? Leave a comment!
*An exhaustive history of US handgun carry laws, including Texas, can be found here.
**Note to anyone who is interested in the above-linked articles but may be prevented from accessing them because of subscription issues: contact me and I will send you the full text from any New York Times or Houston Chronicle article cited above, as I am a subscriber.
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