Dear Governor Abbott: How Many More Stats Do You Need?

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Photo credit: Erik McGregor - Getty Images
Photo credit: Erik McGregor - Getty Images

After last week’s horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the pressure was on Texas governor Greg Abbott to come up with a plan to enforce gun control. On Wednesday, June 1, eight days after the tragedy, he tweeted out a letter addressed to the lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker, Dan Phelan, that outlines the topics he believes they need to focus on.

“As Texans mourn the tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week, we as a state must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence,” the letter reads. Abbott then goes on to request that Patrick and Phelan convene a committee to discuss school safety, mental health, social media, police training, and last on the list, firearm safety—which reads like an afterthought, and a vague one at that. While Abbott is waiting on a legislative committee to make recommendations and a progress report of safety procedures due on October 1 (which was the directive he gave to the Texas School Safety Center), lives are literally at risk. But what additional statistics need to be brought out?

We know that in the 2021-2022 school year alone, there were 136 incidents of gun violence on school grounds. We know that in 2020, more than 45,000 people died from gun-related injuries and that active shooter attacks have more than doubled since 2018. We know that states with more relaxed gun control laws and higher rates of gun ownership have higher rates of mass shootings. We know that Texas has had five deadly mass shootings since 2018, and gun laws have only gotten looser in the state since then (expanding where guns are allowed, who can have a firearm in schools, and the right to openly carry). How many more stats do we need?

While Abbott was on Twitter this Wednesday, O’Rourke held a town hall in front of hundreds at the Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center in Dallas, where he spoke about the need for gun control and eliminating automatic weapons. “I don’t think we should have AR-15’s and AK-47’s in our lives,” said O’Rourke. In order to move toward a resolution, O'Rourke made it known that he is certainly open to working across the aisle to get some form of legislation passed. “I know this is an ugly word for a lot of people right now...compromise. Even not getting everything that we want so that we can get something better than what we have [is better than nothing],” he says.

O'Rourke continued, “I think we can probably get to a consensus on something that stops the sale of AR-15’s and AK-47’s. I think we’re gonna have to be creative about how we get them off the streets and out of civilian ownership.”

He did not leave without speaking strong words about Abbott, whom he is actively seeking to run against in the November election by winning the Democratic nomination. “Not only did [Abbott] not take action to save the lives of our kids,” says O'Rourke, “he took action to make it more certain that we would lose the lives of our kids.”

As we saw last week, O’Rourke is not interested in any additional posturing by Texas lawmakers about doing something, when in all actuality, not much is being done. “You are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said last Wednesday, as he interrupted a press conference Abbott held, one day after the Uvalde shooting. “You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.” O’Rourke, an El Paso native, was escorted out of the building by security after Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin called him a “sick son of a b----” to “make it into a political issue.”

But O’Rourke continued, in a seven-minute impromptu chat with the news media in the parking lot, speaking directly to Texas citizens. “I’m asking all Texans of conscience—I could care less if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent—to stand up right now for your kids, for our families, and to stop the next shooting just like this one.” O’Rourke continued to talk to reporters and gave his ideas on what kind of legislation could be enacted in order to tighten gun control laws. “You want a solution? Stop selling AR-15’s in the state of Texas. You want a solution? Let’s have universal background checks. We don’t have them. You want a solution? Red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders, which stop a shooting before it happens. You want a solution? Safe storage laws.”

After listing out four potential solutions, O’Rourke went on to say, “I’ve got three kids who are in high school, middle school, and elementary school. That’s what they want. And I face their judgment.”

We don’t need more stats right now—we need elected officials who are ready to make changes we know will save lives. As O’Rourke told the crowd in Dallas, “the only way to stop another shooting is to vote.”

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