Op-ed: Uvalde Police Failed, but Not as Badly as Lawmakers

by | May 27, 2022 | Gun violence, Opinion

A British reporter on Thursday asked Sen. Ted Cruz a simple question that ended with the Texas Senator walking away from the interview.

Why does this only happen here? 

It’s a poignant question that is getting lost in light of the utter failure by Uvalde police to quickly engage with the shooter. Police stood outside for 40 minutes as the gunman barricaded himself in two conjoined classrooms and shot children.

That failure by the police is now the leading story. Considering how frequent these massacres are and how vigorously schools and police across the country prepare for them, maybe it should be.

But something feels truly distraught about Tuesday’s massacre becoming a story about police training and adequacy. 

In a sense, it treats school shootings like natural disasters, as if they were events handed down by God and whose only recourse is eternal vigilance and preparation. It feels like learned helplessness.

The police response to a gunman who has little to lose and wants to inflict as much death as possible on unsuspecting victims has, and will forever be inadequate. 

In Sandy Hook, police were informed ahead of time that the shooter planned to kill his mother and shoot up an elementary school. In the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, police took three hours to breach the building and kill the shooter. In the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, a responding officer decided to hide in his car while students were shot.

The police response to the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado was also heavily scrutinized, and even led to an exhaustive FBI investigation that supposedly changed how authorities are trained to respond to active shooters. 

The reason the U.S. is an outlier in gun violence among developed economies and the reason it is the country with the most school shootings is not because its police are more cowardly and inept than in other countries. It is because shooters have easier access to firearms.

However bad the failure of Uvalde authorities was, it pales in comparison to the failure by lawmakers to enact even the most basic gun reforms, like red-flag laws or universal background checks.

That includes Texas Republicans who have consistently loosened gun restrictions after mass shootings and proposed meaningless, reactive solutions like more “hardened” schools or further police training. It also includes the U.S. Senate, an institution that has already proven to be ineffective at responding to any of the popular demands of the country.

It’s difficult to imagine being so gutless as to allow children to get shot while standing around; in that sense, lawmakers and Uvalde police share a lot in common.

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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