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Texas Matters: Uvalde 'could have been worse' but it should have been better

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Beto O'Rourke, Democratic gubernatorial nominee, confronted Republican leaders as they spoke about the Uvalde shooting on Wednesday in Uvalde.

The day after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott and a posse of Republican elected officials called a press conference.

“It is intolerable and it is unacceptable for us to have in the state anybody who would kill little kids in our schools,” Abbott said.

At the school, 19 school children and two teachers were killed by the 18-year old gunman, Salvador Ramos.

In his remarks, Abbott did not address the problem of easy access to guns like the AR-15. In the last legislative session, Abbott signed pro-gun laws including open carry and making Texas a “sanctuary state for guns.” Instead, Abbott blamed the shooting on a lack of mental health care in Texas, which is an area for which he has slashed the budget.

"We as a state, we as a society need to do a better job with mental health. Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period. We as a government need to find a way to target that mental health challenge and to do something about it," Abbott said.

Abbott also praised law enforcement for their response to the shooter when he arrived at the elementary school, saying “they showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire.”

“As horrible as what happened, it could have been worse,” he added.

Certainly, it could have been worse, but, more importantly, it should have been better. One could argue it shouldn’t have happened at all.

We now know that law enforcement loitered outside the school building for as long as 40 minutes while the gunman was left alone in a classroom to continue his killing.

At that press conference, the Democratic nominee for governor, Beto O’Rourke, confronted Abbott and shouted at him, telling the governor that he was responsible for the shooting because of his pro-gun agenda.

"This is on you. Until you choose to do something different, this will continue to happen," O'Rourke shouted to Abbott. "Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday," he said.

For those who say O’Rourke was making the tragedy of Uvalde political, consider this: When Abbott and all his fellow Republicans were on stage, how was that not already political?

And why is it whenever there is a mass shooting like Uvalde in Texas that Abbott immediately shows up and insists that he be the one to inform the public about the details of the horror? He did it at Sutherland Springs, at Sante Fe, at El Paso and now in Uvalde.

Abbott’s presence at these crime scenes isn’t necessary to investigate the crimes but they are helpful to building Abbott’s public image.

Many people say they feel O’Rourke’s display of outrage at Abbott’s press conference was not out of place.

Ovidia Molina said she feels angry over the shooting. She is the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. She's dealing with the loss of the 19 children and the two teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.

Open Carry Texas

After the Uvalde school massacre, many are calling for stronger gun laws that could have prevented this tragic event.

They include laws that would make it more difficult to purchase an AR-15 rifle or a red flag law that would allow state courts to take firearms away from a person who presents a danger to themselves or others.

But pro-gun advocates say that’s a bad idea. These ardent supporters of the Second Amendment have pushed state leaders into passing laws that allow open carry of handguns without a permit or training along with other pro-gun laws.

C.J. Grisham is a leader in the pro gun movement. He is the founder and president of Open Carry Texas.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi