The day after a gunman used an assault rifle to kill eight people and wound several others at an outlet mall in Allen, Gov. Greg Abbott went on Fox News, seeking cover with an audience that he knew would be friendly toward his predictable – and cowardly – decision to dismiss once again calls for reasonable gun reform.
Instead, he talked about improving mental health services, hollow talk from someone who has rarely tried to do that during more than eight years – and several mass shootings – as governor. Just a few days earlier, Forbes had issued a new report ranking Texas last among the states for mental health care, sometimes a contributor to violence but not necessarily a predictor of homicidal behavior.
Abbott also joined Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton for services at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, where congregants sang “Amazing Grace” during a solemn vigil for the shooting victims.
Abbott, Patrick and Paxton, all of whom put gun rights above victims’ rights, are well-practiced at this mourning business, well-practiced to the point of hypocrisy. Anybody can mourn. But only the governor, the lieutenant governor and a few other elected officials have the authority to take the lead and actually do something to try to prevent future mass shootings, or at least make it as difficult as possible for people to use weapons of war to carry out their hatred or anger against strangers who are trying to peacefully live their lives.
Abbott and Patrick have done absolutely nothing to keep guns, including assault rifles, out of the hands of dangerous people. And had they done so, Paxton probably would have filed a lawsuit against them.
Meanwhile, the carnage keeps piling up – a church in Sutherland Springs, a high school in Santa Fe, a Walmart in El Paso, a shooting rampage in Midland and Odessa, an elementary school in Uvalde and now a shopping mall in Allen. All these atrocities were committed on Abbott’s and Patrick’s watch, and these are just the ones most of us remember.
The only change Abbott, Patrick and their allies have made in Texas gun laws during that span of shootings has been to increase the availability of guns in Texas with a law allowing just about any adult to carry a handgun, without a license or any training. And if an ill-conceived bill now pending in the Legislature to increase the number of guns in Texas schools by arming more school employees makes it to Abbott’s desk, he will likely sign it.
Abbott, Patrick, et al so far haven’t even considered something as limited and sensible as a law to raise the minimum age for purchasing an assault rifle from 18 to 21, even after an 18-year-old shooter used an assault rifle he had legally purchased to kill 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde and injure others. A House committee, after sitting on it for weeks, finally approved that bill following the Allen shooting. But will the measure clear all the parliamentary hurdles and win both House and Senate approval during the legislative session’s closing days? If so, will Abbott sign it? So far, he has opposed it.
For years, the governor and his allies have been cowards in fear of the gun lobby and washed their hands of their responsibility to public safety. I have no expectation that my anger and the anger of millions of other Texans who don’t share their political views will make any difference to them now.
But next time, governor, please spare us the faux tears after the shooting stops.