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!

Image from NY Times showing gun homicide rates in rich countries
Image from NY Times showing gun homicide rates in rich countries. Notice where the US data point is. Click to enlarge image.

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.

Graph showing Mass shootings in public places in the US, showing rapid increase since 2004
Mass shootings in public places in the US, showing a rapid increase since the Federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire in 2004. Click to enlarge image.

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.

If you would like to submit a story to GAIL’S STORY blog, submissions are open! I invite you to peruse my submission requirements, and if you have any further questions, you can reach me via my Contact page.


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15 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this.

    I keep thinking the US response, where people sit around trying figure out a way to stop mass shootings. The catch is, the following proposals are somehow off the table: a) taking away guns, b) limiting who can buy them, c) limiting where people can carry them, d) limiting which types of guns they can own, e) limiting which types of guns they can buy, and f) limiting or restricting the availability of any type of ammunition.

    It’s kinda like a person with a dairy allergy saying, “I really want to not feel sick after I eat, and I’ll do ANYTHING to feel better… except I won’t stop eating dairy, that’s obviously just a given.” So, all of the proposals end up being things like, “Drink peppermint tea after you eat pizza!”

    1. Well, you’re right, there will never be a simple answer. But like your second paragraph, the answer can’t be: let’s flood the market with more and more guns, and just make people deal with it better on the other end. Train the police better. Make schools and buildings and homes more secure. Train teachers to use guns. Train school children in active shooter drills. Provide better mental health facilities. While some of this may always be necessary, it seems like an ass-backwards approach to the problem, and a very expensive one.

  2. Very interesting article… although I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said, it’s evident that you research thoroughly to come to your conclusions. There is a serious problem with the mental health system in this country so I believe we need gun control laws only in combination with mental health reform and politicians on both side of the aisle need to fix both of these problem. Unfortunately, I have too much experience with the mental health issue to ignore that factor in these kind of incidents. It’s all heartbreaking.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Thanks very much for reading and commenting on my post. I’m very familiar with your track record on publishing in the mental health arena and I respect that. I realized that I was neglecting that important contributing factor in this post, but didn’t feel qualified to address it, to be honest. All I have to offer in this regard is my personal experience: an unstable, alcoholic father who held our family hostage through violence, intimidation, and emotional abuse. My mother confessed to me when I was in my 40s that the only reason she didn’t leave him was because he had guns in the house, and she was afraid he would find her and kill her. That was a man who desperately needed mental health treatment if anyone did, but would never receive it, because he didn’t think he had a problem. This, I think, may be at the root of a lot of mass shootings today: people who don’t believe they have problems. They think the world is the problem and it’s their job to fix it.

      Thank you again for commenting.

      1. Oh! You have more than enough experience to write about mental health issues like this! I’m so sorry! And, I absolutely agree with you about the ones who don’t think they have a problem! And I would add it’s often the parents who don’t think their children have a problem, but they are creating the problem. I saw that from 30+ years in education and seeing parents blame everyone else for their child’s problem. Keep writing thought-provoking and heartfelt content! 💜

        1. Thank you again for your kind words. With your breadth of experience as an educator and in the mental health field, I’d love to read an opinion piece sometime on this same topic, coming from you! You have a lot to offer. Think about it!

  3. At the NRA Convention, Trump and Cruz called for stronger school security. But neither one explained why an 18 year old needs an AR-15 rifle. There is no reason.

    1. Yes, that was the extent of Gov. Abbott’s response after the Santa Fe shooting as well. He launched a special session of the legislature and enacted new school security measures and mental health initiatives. And right after that, two more mass shootings took place in Texas: one in El Paso, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart, and another in Odessa, in which seven people were killed. It’s like they are saying: “we’ll continue to flood the public with more guns, and we expect you guys to deal with it on the other side: make the public areas more secure, make sure those unstable people get the help they need, train those police in better tactical moves, train those children with active shooter drills.” How about we take those AR-15s off the streets from the get-go?

      Thanks for commenting, Scott!

  4. Gail,
    I totally agree with everything you have written and very happy you decided to write it. I also have been filled with anger since Uvalde and the recent Buffalo shooting. (I have family that live in the Buffalo area!). I can’t understand how Ted Cruz and others can say that making gun laws stricter won’t make a difference? It’s time to really take a closer look at those in Texas government and look to make some serious changes come Election Day! Thanks again Gail for posting this.

    1. Thank you, Jackie, I really appreciate your support! There’s a very good reason that Ted Cruz and our other Republican legislators aren’t motivated to make changes to the current status quo. There’s a lot more I could have written in this article, but didn’t…they are completely beholden to the NRA. The Houston Chronicle published an article on May 26, 2022 entitled “Texas politicians shared horror and grief over Uvalde. Here’s how much money they took from the NRA.” Ted Cruz is third from the top on that list, taking more than $175,000. John Cornyn holds the top spot at more than $500,000. Pete Sessions is second at $200,000. And these are just donations from the official organization, not individual donors, which are categorized differently. Another useful website to watch is — that’s where you can see individual and corporate donors listed. These lawmakers are not voting their conscience or even what their constituency demands, they are voting what their campaign contributors demand!

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