Salvador Ramos shot and killed 19 students, 2 teachers, and wounded 17 others at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas this week. It’s the 3rd deadliest school shooting in American history and the deadliest in Texas. Ramos was shot and killed on the scene by responding U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Private Guns > Public Health
Surrounded by fellow Republicans on a high school stage, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was speaking to the massacre in Uvalde Texas on Wednesday when Beto O’Rourke surged toward him on the stage. “I have something to say,” the former U.S. Congressman said. “The time to stop the next shooting is now and you’re doing nothing.”
As the 2022 candidate for Governor of Texas spoke, a mix of boos and cheers rose up from the crowd. Texas senator Ted Cruz shook his head, “sit down.” A bereaved mother cried out, “let him speak.” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin opined, “O’Rourke, you’re a sick son of a bitch!”
The reaction, address and routine reprise many such meetings which follow school shootings in America. Beginning at the University of Virginia in 1840 with a single fatality — a professor was shot by a disgruntled student — gun violence inside America’s schools would follow a consistent trend. Virginia Tech (33) > Sandy Hook Elementary (28) > University of Texas (18) are among the 666 students and teachers shot and killed on academic campuses in America. This week’s massacre at Robb Elementary pushes that statistic to 687.
Your Land, My Land
Democrats prefer gun control — who can possess a firearm, what type of weapons should be available — while Republicans defer to school security and mental health.
“We need all Texans, in this one moment in time, to put aside their own agendas and think of somebody other than ourselves. We need think about the people who are hurt,” Abbott said, after O’Rourke stormed the stage. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick added, “This is not a partisan issue. This is not a political issue.”
But for many — including those in the high school auditorium — the partisanship and the politics are inescapable. Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, just 54 miles from the Mexico border, was just the latest in a trend to occur in Texas.
A gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso Texas in 2019, after which Texas lawmakers loosened gun laws.
“I hate to say this, but there are more people shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in Texas schools,” Governor Abbot told the crowd. “Gun laws aren’t going to solve this problem.”
A reference to gun legislation elsewhere in the nation, the Texas governor’s references are completely inaccurate. “California, New York and Illinois consistently register lower rates of firearms deaths than Texas,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “and have among the lowest per capita rates of firearms deaths in the country.”
“If we do nothing, we’ll continue to see this,” O’Rourke said, having been escorted from the auditorium and now stumping in the parking lot. “Year after year, school after school, kid after kid.”
“It’s not OK,” says Ariana Diaz, of the close-knit community whose lost their brothers, sisters and mothers on Tuesday. “He’s only 18. He’s not even old enough to purchase an alcoholic beverage. He shouldn’t be old enough to purchase a gun.”
Laura Ligocky, 41, described the massacres as “gut wrenching” but doesn’t see restrictions on guns as a solution. “Everybody wants gun control, but I don’t think it’s helping,” she said, in the parking lot where O’Rourke was calling for gun legislation. “We must have the right to protect ourselves.”
The Gunning of America
The right to bear arms originated with British Colonists, gunning for a fight with Great Britain. The Brown Bess, Charleville Musket, Bayonet and Long Rifle were the principle weapons of the American Revolution and were issued to and privately owned by the soldiers.
Following the Revolutionary War, confederate soldiers were given their weapons to keep. Slave patrols prevented rebellions and enslaved people from escaping the Carolinas, and by 1785 the Charleston Guard and Watch became the first unofficial police force in the U.S. South.
Vigilantism, the act of enforcing laws without legal authority, was in effect becoming a way of life in America. Trespassing birds, dogs, even unwelcome neighbors could all be met with the barrel of a gun until 1791 when that “right” appeared in the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
District of Columbia v. Heller — a 2008 landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court — was asked if or whether the framers intended to protect a) the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, or b) the state’s right to keep and bear arms?
Could the framers foresee the two AR-style semi-automatic rifles pinned at the top of Ramos’ Instagram, or his TikTok profile that warned “KIDS BE SCARED!” Probably not.
But the justices did have probable cause — in 666 students and teachers killed on America’s academic campuses — to believe that number would grow to 687.
And no reason, whatsoever, to believe otherwise.