September 4, 2019
August was a difficult month for all of us in Texas.
All told, 29 people were killed and another 50 were wounded in the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland/Odessa. The fear, sadness and utter disbelief stretches far beyond those two communities. We’re all touched by the loss.
Texas seems to be leading a horrifying national trend of more frequent and more deadly mass shootings. But the response so far has been focused on thoughts and prayers, convening invitation-only roundtable discussions, creating new commissions and committees to study the issue, or searching for scapegoats such as mental health and violent video games. This week brought yet a new hollow “solution”— expedited executions, which are unlikely to deter mass shooters who often plan to die during their rampage.
Yes, let us pray
I think about the loss of so many all of the time. They stay in my thoughts. And I pray. I believe prayer works. I believe it works for those who we lift up, and I pray because it brings me some sense of relief. I pray mostly for the innocent people who have lost their lives, their loved ones, their health or their sense of security.
And I pray that it won’t happen again. Please.
But I also think we should pray for the wisdom to address the problem we face. I pray that those of us elected to serve the public will have the courage to do our duty to think, pray, and act on behalf of those we represent.
Let’s be honest
It’s time for honesty. I know that we can’t or won’t start with a clean slate. We will not be able to set all politics aside. And I know that we all start with certain ideas and positions. But we need to start looking for new ways to hear each other with a bias toward reducing gun violence. All or nothing absolute positions aren’t a sign of strength.
We’re past the time of acting as though each mass shooting is unique and unpredictable. We know they’re not. The El Paso and Midland/Odessa shootings share several similarities, including concerned calls to police beforehand and the use of assault weapons — weapons of war that have been designed to quickly kill as many people as possible.
Honest, disciplined discussion of the issue will avoid quibbling over the definition of “assault weapon,” where some try to distract by focusing on the technical differences between automatic and semiautomatic rifles rather than their fatal similarities. We also have to stop pretending as though no law can stop lawless people, which legislators clearly don’t believe since we pass laws to prevent violence all the time. Are we not willing to try to deter lawless people? Are we not willing to try to at least make it harder for the lawless to kill so many innocent people?
Of course, there’s also the classic, flawed argument that we can’t do more to regulate guns because of the Second Amendment. We can debate the meaning of the Second Amendment and not reach complete agreement. But we can agree — because we know — that there are appropriate limits on even constitutional protections. And we can also agree — again, because we know — about the rights of those who died, those with painful lifetime injuries, the child who lost parents, the families who lost loved ones, those whose lives were forever changed. Their lives, their liberty, their freedom to live free of fear, disability and pain were brutally infringed.
Let’s set aside the arguments of distraction. With facts, several truths are clear. We have a real problem with gun violence in America and Texas more specifically. And we have to start doing something about it.
Nothing is more urgent.
Now is the time
Like many Texans, I’m frustrated that the next mass shooting feels more inevitable than any concrete action to stop it. It doesn’t have to be this way. Why should it?
I don’t have all of the answers. And there’s not a perfect solution. But there’s still good reason to engage, to speak out plainly and honestly, to listen and to seek a result that’s better than what we’ve been facing. We can and should be doing more to prevent mass shootings and gun violence more broadly. It needs to start now with a special legislative session dedicated to the singular issue of saving Texans from gun violence.
There are many good ideas out there, and they deserve a thorough, open, and public debate. My colleagues and I filed dozens of bills to curb gun violence during the last regular session. For example, I filed a bill to ensure those who legally cannot have a gun because of a court-issued protective order actually comply with the order. Sadly, we were told the gun lobby killed it before it even received a public hearing.
The Legislature, representing all Texans, is the body to have this debate. And a special session is the only mechanism if anything real is to happen before 2021, when the 87th Legislature is set to convene.
What’s more important right now than us getting to the Capitol and doing our jobs?
Texans are tired of their politicians hoping to wait them out on the issue of gun violence. It’s been an effective strategy by special interests, but a growing group of moms, students, and other grassroots activists are mobilizing and, rightly, demanding change.
By all means, let’s mourn our loss, grieve with our neighbors and pray for those who are hurting. But let’s stop sitting and waiting to repeat the process when it inevitably happens again.
Now is the time to put partisanship and political self-preservation aside and to lead.
Now is the time for a special session dedicated to the single issue of saving Texans from gun violence.