Do you support Texas gun laws that allowed Uvalde’s Salvador Ramos to buy two AR-15 style assault weapons and 1,600 rounds of ammunition over four days the week he turned 18 years old? How about the next Salvador Ramos, who is surely out there?
If the answer is no, you support gun violence prevention and legal reforms. If the answer is yes, please explain why in the comments section below.
Like many who advocate for sensible gun purchasing and possession reforms in Texas, I am not anti-gun. Generations of my family have been and continue to be gun-owning hunters. Most of the meat we consume is harvested on our family ranch. We’ve taught many first time hunters, men and women, how to shoot a deer and process the animal into a freezer full of venison.
Earlier in my career, I spent several years as a journalist living and working in war zones. I am quite familiar with the vast difference between hunting rifles and handguns versus weapons of war designed to efficiently kill people.
I also believe the Second Amendment has been badly distorted over the decades. The intent of the Founding Fathers to allow citizens to bear arms to defend themselves has spawned a largely unregulated gun industry and levels of civil violence not seen in any other democratic nation.
These days, we are seeing the National Rifle Association, various spinoff groups and gun manufacturers promote laws that have led to continuous incidents of “offensive gun use” in the form of mass shootings. I am no constitutional scholar, but it does not square with, “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.” Read some history if your Second Amendment understanding comes mainly from bombastic cable news talking heads.
In this nation, Texas is among the deadliest states for mass shootings and has some of the weakest gun laws.
Lax gun laws in Texas allowed Ramos to purchase two AR-15 style assault weapons and an inexplicably large cache of ammunition on May 17 and 20 without any alarms registering at the Uvalde gun store or with local authorities. In the weeks and months preceding his purchases, Ramos demonstrated disturbing, antisocial behavior that included threats of future violence.
Does anyone at these stores selling tactical assault weapons and high volumes of ammunition ever ask young men like Ramos what they intend to do with their purchases? Apparently not.
Ramos made his purchases at Oasis Outback on a Tuesday and Friday, and then on the following Tuesday he walked into Robb Elementary School and massacred 19 Uvalde third and fourth graders and two of their teachers, and left 17 other children wounded. A Border Patrol tactical unit finally stormed the classroom 75 minutes after Ramos arrived at the school and killed him in an exchange of gunfire.
This is not the first time Oasis Outback has found itself in the middle of a questionable firearms or ammunition sale.
As we debate the need for gun reform laws, please keep in mind the 19 boys and girls and two teachers slaughtered with a teenage boy’s newly acquired weapons. We have not seen the disturbing photos of the victims, but I can tell you what we did not see after observing countless victims of close-up tactical weapon fire: bodies are shredded, heads exploded, body parts strewn about. It comes as no surprise to me that some identifications of the murdered boys and girls had to be made through DNA tests.
Do you have children? What makes you think they are any safer than the third or fourth graders in Uvalde, or the Walmart shoppers in El Paso, or the church worshippers in Sutherland Springs? They are not.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas legislators can act to prevent the next Uvalde, the next Sutherland Springs, the next El Paso, the next Santa Fe, Texas, mass shooting by the next angry and alienated young man. But right now, unless we change Texas gun laws, there will continue to be an endless supply of lethal weaponry easily available to an endless supply of angry and alienated young men.
To make real changes, instead of passing more laws “hardening schools,” arming teachers in ridiculous efforts to turn them into peace officers, or finding ways to make it easier for everyone else in society to tote a loaded firearm, the governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan need to work with elected Democrats to pass real reform laws that will keep our communities and children safer than they are today.
The nonprofit Everytown, which bills itself as the “largest gun violence prevention organization in America,” has plenty of common sense recommendations to lawmakers to reduce gun violence. Here are some of the steps Texas could take while pushing federal lawmakers to restore a nationwide assault weapon ban and buyback program.
- Ban the statewide sale and possession of assault weapons and ammunition caches of a certain size. Establish a statewide buyback program to entice current owners to turn in their weapons for a full refund. Guns designed for combat have no place in civil society.
- Background checks should be mandatory for all firearms sales. Right now unlicensed gun owners operating online or at gun shows in Texas can sell a firearm to anyone without a background check, an attractive loophole for convicted felons, individuals with domestic abuse restraining orders and smugglers working with Mexican drug cartels to obtain firearms and ammunition.
- Local authorities should be tasked with reviewing social media accounts of gun buyers, especially young, first time buyers, to see if individuals are expressing antisocial views or threatening future acts of violence. Gun buyers should be required to disclose personal social media accounts on a firearms background check. Lying on a background check is a felony and the state and federal government should start to prosecute those caught lying. That seldom happens now.
- Raise the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21 to stop unsupervised teenagers from acquiring firearms. All people living with the gun purchaser should be notified of any firearms purchases.
- Retract the law allowing open carry of handguns without a permit. Many experts predict the 2021 law will result in more road rage shootings, gunfights outside bars and in other public settings.
- Retract the law allowing concealed handguns on university and college campuses.
- Require domestic abusers to surrender any firearms and ammunition they already possess. Violent adults should forfeit their right to own a lethal weapon.
- Pass an Extreme Risk Law, also known as a “red flag law,” that allows family members, friends, neighbors and others to petition the courts to require individuals threatening to harm themselves or others to surrender any firearms they possess until a court rules they are no longer a danger.
- Make licensed gun dealers responsible for alerting local and state authorities to any firearms or ammunition purchases that trigger safety concerns. The purchasing process should include an affidavit by the buyer stating his intended use of the firearm. Any experienced firearms dealer should have been wary of Ramos’ back-to-back assault weapon purchases.
- Create public service campaigns encouraging teens and adults to report individuals making disturbing or threatening social media posts to local and state authorities.
All but one state with stricter gun laws have less gun violence and lower gun-related homicide rates than Texas. It’s long past time for the state’s top elected leaders to abandon their blind loyalty to the gun lobby and act to make Texans, especially Texas children, safer from gun violence.