President Obama lamented that having to address the nation after a mass shooting has become a routine exercise without leading a to positive change in gun laws. It’s true. You can almost set your watch by the predictable playout: calls for mourning then calls for legislative action followed by calls for more guns in more places including in schools, hospitals and churches. No where is that call to arms been louder than in Texas, but the voices of reason are beginning rise up.
A Texas Tribune poll found that only 10% of Texans supported the open carry of firearms without a license and 68% opposed open carry even with a license. You would not have known this by the 2nd Amendment agenda pushed by conservative Republicans in the Texas legislature this year. In the past two legislative session they have passed campus carry and open carry while reducing the training requirements from 12 hours to 4. So where is the silent majority?
Well, according to Ed Scruggs an activist and board member of Texas Gun Sense there has been, “an awakening in recent weeks across the state, driven primarily by the pending implementation of both campus carry and open carry.” He contends that, ”the vast majority of Texans who do not own a gun, who feel safer without firearms as a part of their daily lives, are beginning to wonder who is looking out for their interests.” He says that groups like Moms Demand Action and Texas Gun Sense are beginning to engage in what has previously been a one-sided argument through lobbying efforts and grassroots organizing.
Scruggs points out that because of Texas’ concealed carry law many citizens who feel threatened by guns may have simply not been aware of their presence but the new open carry and campus carry laws will make that unavoidable. A point well taken after a UT professor left his tenured job over the idea of guns in his classroom. In a bit of sad coincidence, those laws will actually take effect on the 50th Anniversary of the UT Tower shooting, which has been described as the nation’s first mass shooting where 43 people were injured and 13 were killed.
Students at Texas Southern University in Houston have fallen victim to multiple instances of campus gun violence in just the last couple of weeks.
Several times this year I’ve been asked some version of, “how many more shootings will it take before we enact sensible gun regulations?” The question, I’m afraid, starts with an incorrect premise. It assumes that there is a certain breaking point where facts and figures will drive the discussion, but that isn’t the case.
The push back on sensible gun regulation comes from a deep-seated paranoia of government fomented by right wing politicians. Some simply believe law enforcement is incapable of protecting them, while others believe, more dangerously, that government is the primary threat. Both of these scenarios tear at the fabric of a civilized and modern society.
It is the reason our Governor Abbott sent the State Guard to “monitor” federal troops conducting training exercises in Texas, and why he signed open-carry legislation at a gun range instead of the state capitol. Government leaders irresponsibly feeding into such hysteria emboldens individuals to take matters of law into their own hands and with disastrous consequences.
Last month near Houston, one ‘good guy with a gun’ accidentally shot a car-jacking victim in the head trying to interrupt the crime in action. It ended up making it easier for the thieves to steal the vehicle and the shooter, realizing, he shot the wrong person fled the scene himself. And earlier this week a woman in Home Depot opened fire on a thief who ran out the store. What’s the point of hiring law enforcement or guaranteeing the right to trial if an unelected individual can appoint themselves Judge, jury and executioner?
Numerous recent reports have indicated that terrorism accounted for less than 1% of total deaths that Americans levied on themselves with firearms. In just the 10 year period between 2000 and 2010 over 335,000 Americans died by gun violence.
Fortunately, many gun owners, like Alexandra Chasse, have bucked the NRA for groups that push commonsense gun laws. Chasse told the Houston Chronicle, “A lot of Texans are sick and tired of being told just to pray and send their thoughts out after every mass shooting incident.”
A lot of Texans are also sick of being told that the problem is mental illness, when according to the Texas Medical Association, the state ranks 49th in funding for mental health services.
Chasse also told the Chronicle that organizations pushing to end gun violence are growing and pointed to the final watered down version of campus carry to show how their efforts have paid off. “Our lawmakers were effectively put on notice that this is not the end of the story.”
When it comes making change in Texas, it seems the only voices that matter are the ones heard at the ballot box and that means we have a lot of work to do.