On August 3, 2019, a gunman motivated by xenophobia and white supremacy traveled more than 11 hours through the state of Texas to open fire in an El Paso Walmart, killing 22 people. The shooter posted a manifesto shortly before committing the massacre in which he cited a “Hispanic invasion,” using rhetoric often spouted by Republicans, like Donald Trump, Greg Abbott, and Dan Patrick, to justify his hateful act.
Less than a month after tragedy struck El Paso, seven people, including three police officers, lost their lives during a shooting in Midland-Odessa. More than 20 people, including a 17-month-old girl, were injured during the “killing spree.” The shooter, who had been fired from his job that morning, committed the massacre after being pulled over during a routine traffic stop.
It’s been one year since the shooting in El Paso and nearly one year since the tragedy in Midland-Odessa, and Texas Republicans remain no closer to taking measurable steps to ensure the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors are not lost to gun violence.
Rather than introducing substantive gun violence legislation that could have helped prevent the tragedies in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Republicans in Texas have weakened gun safety laws further. Greg Abbott even refused to acknowledge the El Paso massacre was an act of white supremacy and outright declined all calls for a special session on gun violence. The people of Texas deserve a governor who’s going to prioritize saving lives, not put them in jeopardy on account of his inaction.
Just one day before the El Paso shooting, Greg Abbott sent a racist fundraising mailer to his constituents across the state. With Trump allies, like the governor, emboldening hateful ideologies, it’s clear that protecting the people of Texas is not their priority. If it were, they would not continue to be complicit as Texans lose their lives.
White supremacy has plagued American society throughout our country’s history. Despite the legal milestones that have furthered racial equality, white supremacy is instilled in our institutions and many of our Republican elected officials, through their endless rhetoric inspire white supremacists day in and day out.
Since the massacres that shook the cities of El Paso and Midland-Odessa to their core, several tragedies have befallen Texas, all of which have been preventable. On September 15, 2019, three children were shot in a span of 12 hours in Tarrant County. On October 26, 2019, two college students were killed while attending a homecoming party at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Despite the growing number of avoidable shootings, yet again, Greg Abbott continues to refuse calls for a special session on gun violence or take any measurable steps towards confronting the spread of white supremacy.
Late last year, Republican Senator John Cornyn introduced legislation that barely scratched the surface of confronting gun violence in our state. The NRA-approved policy proposals fail to include the expansion of background checks, red flag laws, or reducing the weapons of war on our streets.
Republicans refuse to pass laws today that would save lives tomorrow.
Mass shootings have become routine in American society and the Republican’s “thoughts and prayers” script is not sufficient. By not calling a special session on gun violence, the governor has allowed these hateful acts to continue, and by not prioritizing comprehensive gun safety legislation, Abbott and Cornyn have allowed our communities to be subjected to senseless violence.
It’s time to prioritize the safety of the people of our great state and confront the gun violence atrocities our communities have suffered. Everyone in our state should have the right to live a life free from gun violence and racial hatred. Republicans have demonstrated time and time again that they care more about the adoration of the NRA lobby than the lives of the people they were elected to protect.
Gilberto Hinojosa is the Texas Democratic Party Chair
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images