I haven’t had any time to process the Uvalde School shooting, but I am utterly devastated. I found out about it yesterday at about 4 PM. Sobbed briefly in my husband’s arms when he got home at 4:30, and then headed off to a tee ball game numb and sickened. It was Trevor’s last game of the season and we had invited the team to come to Chuck E. Cheese afterwards because Trevor had been asking us to go since he got out of the hospital. I tried not to ruin everyone else’s good time and be a bummer for the kids. I tried to remember the carry-on spirit of the post 9/11 days and thought, maybe doing normal things is a small way to honor the lost, but mostly it just feels wrong because all I want to do is scream and cry and break things.
Today I sat through my son’s pre-k graduation and the normal, sentimental tears were mingled with vicarious grief. A few weeks ago my MOPS group had talked about how silly all the graduations are (pre-k, kinder, 5th grade, 8th grade) but today my only thought was that we should celebrate our kids every chance we get, because what if that’s the only opportunity you ever get to see your child in a cap and gown?
My grief isn’t personal. I don’t know anyone who was killed. I don’t have friends or family in Uvalde. (By the way it’s pronounced “you-VAL-dee”) I have been there several times, because I was raised in South Texas. Like most of you, I am praying and grieving for the parents who lost children. I grieve for the siblings and the grandparents and the best friends. I grieve for the families of the two teachers who died doing a job that’s not supposed to be deadly. I grieve for the family who lost two kids because two of the children killed, Jailah Nicole Silguero and Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, were cousins. I grieve for teachers nationwide who have learned yet again that “human shield” is an unwritten part of their job description. I grieve for a country so broken that we can’t collectively agree on a way to even begin to address mass shootings without devolving into a mess of ugly partisan insults. My grief stems from a decade of spinning my wheels at the state Capitol as the legislature consistently gutted my home state’s gun safety laws and regulations.
In April of 2021 I sat in front of the special committee in the Texas House of Representatives and literally begged them not to remove our firearm protections. I called the proposed law “irresponsible” and “reckless”, and I wasn’t alone. A bipartisan group of activists, firearms dealers, instructors and law enforcement officials also testified that it would be disastrous. HB 1927 was a permitless carry bill that did away with firearms licensing and training requirements in the state of Texas.
I had gone to the Capitol to register opposition to various bills multiple times over the years, but this was the first time I had given testimony. Earlier in the session a similar bill had failed in the senate. In response the legislators had fast-tracked it through the house, holding votes in the wee hours of the morning. When writing my testimony I had strategically not focused on mass shootings, because I have learned that my state’s majority Republican leadership is largely unconcerned with preventing mass shootings. Instead, I focused on the high probability of gun-related accidents in the absence of training or licensing requirements.
But now, facing Texas’s very own Sandy Hook, I feel compelled to share the deadly consequences that are a direct result of the Texas Legislature’s foolhardy partisan politics. In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy the Texas legislature began methodically dismantling our gun regulations. Previous to that year there were three high profile mass shootings in Texas: The 1966 UT Tower shooting, the 1991 Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Killeen, and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting (also in Killeen). In 2013 the legislature passed HB 48, HB 333, HB 485, HB 698, HB 1349, HB 3142, HB 3370, SB 164, SB 299, SB 864, SB 987, all of which eased restrictions on firearm ownership in various ways (source). There was also HB 1009 which established armed school marshals for public schools in addition to SB 1907 which prohibited state universities from restricting firearms in student vehicles if the student was a concealed carry permit holder.
At the start of the 2015 session I participated in legislative visits at the Capitol with Moms Demand Action volunteers. Meanwhile, gun rights activists held a demonstration where they 3D printed an untraceable gun on the Capitol Lawn on the opening day of the session. Coincidentally, in 2019 a felon was found with a “ghost gun” (as untraceable, plastic guns are called) and a bipartisan hit list of Texas legislators’ names.
During the 2015 session the legislature passed SB 11 also known as campus carry compelling state universities to establish policies allowing Concealed Handgun License holders to be allowed to carry their weapons on campus. They also passed HB 910 or “Open Carry” which allowed CHL holders to openly carry their firearms in holsters in public and anywhere they are not expressly prohibited to do so. Open Carry also commuted all Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHLs) into a “License to Carry” (LTC).
So to recap:
- 2013 – removed barriers to gun ownership and eased licensing requirements.
- 2015 – passed campus carry and open carry
- 2016 – a man ruthlessly murdered five Dallas Police Officers
- September 2017 – a man walked into a football party in Plano that he wasn’t invited to and murdered his ex wife and seven of her friends
- November 2017 – the Sutherland Springs church shooter took the lives of 26 people
- May 2018 – the Santa Fe High School shooter took the lives of eight students and two teachers
- August 3, 2019 – a xenophobic 21 year old man drove 11 hours from his home to a Walmart in the border town of El Paso where he murdered 23 people ranging in age from 15 to 90.
- August 31, 2019 – a man lost his job and drove around the Midland-Odessa area randomly shooting people. Twenty-five people were shot including three law enforcement officers and a toddler. Seven people died
- March 2020 – global pandemic causes a lull in mass shootings
- 2021 – passed permitless carry
- May 2022 – The Uvalde shooter turned 18 and legally bought two AR rifles. Within a week of that purchase he killed 18 elementary school students and two teachers
He killed unarmed women and children. Like a complete coward.
I don’t think it’s unfair or inaccurate to say that the reckless and irresponsible stripping of our protections by the Texas Legislature are directly responsible for these deaths. We have effectively tested the “good guy with a gun” theory touted by the NRA. It’s time to try something else. Literally anything else. Legislators, if you refuse to consider that guns are the problem, if you think mental health is the problem, what are you doing about it? If you think violent media is the problem, what are you doing about it? If you think bullying is the problem, what are you doing about it??? Stop talking about the problem, start doing something about it! Preferably something recommended by experts. Consider the possibility that you might have been wrong. I am so, so sick of hearing politicians blather on about what won’t fix the problem. Tell me what will fix it, then. Better yet, just do it. Fix it. We have had 23 years since Columbine to study this phenomenon. The research is out there. It’s your job to read it and DO. SOMETHING. ABOUT. IT.
Yesterday I looked my almost 13 year old in the face and apologized to her for my generation’s failure to protect our children. I also gave her advice on how to escape a mass shooter following the run/hide/fight principle. The lockdowns practiced by our schools create sitting duck situations. New research says that if you can get out of the building, then you should (run). Also it’s good to note that when running from a shooter, run in a zigzag pattern, it makes you a more difficult target. If you can’t run, hide. Some people have even survived mass shootings by pretending to be dead. If you can’t hide, fight. Throw things at the shooter, whatever you have on hand, even your own shoes. If he is using a handgun, target the hand holding the gun. If it’s a long barrel weapon, target the barrel and direct it downward.
I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in a mass shooting because I have never experienced it. As a parent I hope I would have the courage to skip the run and hide steps and go straight to fight, but braver people than me have been held hostage by their own fear in these situations, so I don’t know. I can’t know, and I hope I never do know. But what I am certain of, is that I can’t trust the legislators to protect my family.