You can’t say Texas gun laws failed because they worked exactly as intended. Everything the shooter did was strictly legal, except for the murder. Yet these gun laws, many of which are the result of a relaxation over the past seven years under Mr. Governor Greg Abbott (R), bear much of the responsibility for the shooting. They reflect a “systemic failure” of gun culture in Texas.
Many Americans, and Texans in particular, have a mythical misconception about the state: in Texas rootin’, tootin’, that’s always been the case with guns. But that’s just not true. Until 1870, of course, Texas was part of the Wild West when it came to firearms. However, in 1870, everything changed: the state legislature banned the carrying of firearms outside the home.
Texas was one of the first states to do so, leading the way in gun safety laws in the 20th century. He also banned the carrying of knives, daggers and other weapons in public. In the 1920s, Texas quadrupled fines for violations (and sent offenders who couldn’t pay them to prison labor gangs), banned automatic weapons altogether, and imposed a hefty 50% tax. on arms sales.
These laws remained in effect until an initial legislative assault in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, Texas’ last Democratic Governor, Ann Richards, backed by police, vetoed a bill legalizing concealed weapons. This played a big part in her downfall in 1994 when she lost to George W. Bush.
The new Republican governor signed a concealed carry law in 1995, saying it would “make Texas a safer place.” Thus was born the “unofficial”Ann Richards Rulein Texas Politics: Never Oppose Bills Expanding Gun Rights.
In addition to signing a firm law, Rick Perrywho followed Bush as governor, talked mostly about guns, when he was not posing with them. But under Abbott today, and a Republican-controlled legislature, Texans can carry a gun just about anywhere except where a posted sign prohibits it.
You can openly carry a 9mm pistol at the grocery store, walk into a cafe with an AK-47 as long as there is no sign prohibiting guns. I can even keep my .45 caliber pistol right in the center console of my truck – without license.
Sweeping in its condemnation of all institutions – with the exception of the legislature and the governor – the Uvalde report is long on details and short on insight. While painstakingly describing the killer’s legal purchases of arms and ammunition just after he turned 18, the report does not discuss the wisdom or morality of allowing such purchases when seven outlaw states exactly that.
As a gun owner, I think selling civilized military style long guns to anyone is a mistake – AK-47s, SKS, AR-15s, everything. Selling them to 18 year olds is just plain evil. But Americans own about 20 millions of these guns – and that’s just the AR-15 style rifles among the nearly 400 million firearms nationwide. I hesitate one day to withdraw them from circulation.
So in a nation bristling with guns of all types and where schools have become prime targets for adolescent male predators, protecting students is essential. This will mean stronger physical measures: high fences, armed guards, remotely locked doors and gates. And smarter technology: panic buttons, security apps, and even increased social media monitoring by local police. Better mental health care is a clear need.
“You’ll get what you pay for, and I don’t think you’ll get much for $10 per student,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told me Monday. “Most schools don’t have a budget, and the people handing out the budgets aren’t convinced the money is needed there.”
After Uvalde, Congress began to talk seriously about more funding for school safety. Good. I hope a lot of that money will come to Texas because we carry the terrible distinction of lead the country in school shootings since 2012. Turns out, everything in Texas is indeed bigger — including the systemic failure of everything gun-related.