This article was originally published on Pro Publica Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative essay.
Not to mention the mass shooting of Uvalde, the governor of Texas. greg abbott last week he declared school safety a priority for the current legislative session and again rejected calls for more laws restricting access to guns.
“Some want more gun laws, but too many local officials don’t even enforce gun laws that are already on the books,” the governor said during his Annual State of the State Address. Without providing a clear source or data, he went on to state that “the majority of gun crime is committed by criminals who own guns illegally.” Abbott proposed a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for people who are not legally allowed to have a firearm but do have one anyway.
“We need to leave prosecutors and judges with no choice but to punish these criminals and get them and their guns off our streets,” said Abbott, a Republican.
But Abbott’s speech avoided a glaring reality: Most of the 19 mass shootings in the state over the past six decades were carried out by men who acquired firearms legally, according to a report. investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune published before his speech. Guns were obtained legally in 13 shootings, including two in which the shooter was not allowed to have one but took advantage of a loophole in the law that does not require background checks for privately purchased firearms. The firearms were obtained illegally in three cases. The rest of the cases were not clear.
The End-shutdown organizations’ analysis found that lawmakers failed to pass at least two dozen bills that would have prevented people from legally obtaining the guns and ammunition used in seven of the state’s mass shootings. Those measures included requiring universal background checks, banning the possession of certain firearms, and raising the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21.
Instead, state lawmakers have loosened restrictions over the years on the public carrying of guns and made it harder for local governments to regulate them.
Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old son was among the 19 children and two teachers killed last year at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, agreed with Abbott that criminals should not have access to guns. But, Cross said, the governor’s comments ignore the fact that the people responsible for many mass shootings had no criminal records.
“Prior to May 24, our shooter was not a criminal,” Cross said. “If this shooter hadn’t been able to go in and buy those guns literally two days after his 18th birthday, then my son would still be alive.” Abbott said, “he wants to be reactive rather than proactive, and proactive is what we need to stop these things.”
The governor did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the investigation from End-shutdown organizations or about his comments during his state of the state address.
Little evidence exists to support Abbott’s claim, he said. Bill magicianwho worked for a national police association for seven years and has spent the last 30 years teaching and researching criminal justice policy.
“Simply to say that most gun crime is committed by criminals who own guns illegally is a statement that cannot be supported,” said Spelman, professor emeritus of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
James Densley, who co-founded the Violence Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank best known for its Extensive database of mass shooters, said Abbott’s proposed 10-year mandatory minimum sentence would do little to deter mass shootings because the shooter does not survive in most of those cases and already faces life in prison in others. In the vast majority of cases nationwide where it is known how shooters obtained their firearms, they did so legally, Densley said.
Densley said that different forms of gun violence require specific approaches. For example, restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines might be effective in reducing mass shootings, but less effective in curbing “everyday gun violence,” she said.
“And I think the politicians really know that,” Densely said. “They understand it intuitively. But they have to say what is politically expedient to meet the needs of their constituents and others. And so they often combine these different forms of gun violence so that it’s perceived that they’re talking about one thing when they’re really talking about something else.”