Tactical assault rifles line the wall at Nagel's Gun Shop.
Tactical assault rifles line the wall at a local gun store. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

It has been two and a half weeks since a 36-year-old truck driver fatally shot seven people and wounded 25 more in Midland and Odessa. The shooter, who had been recently fired, lived alone in a metal shack without electricity. He had a history of violence and was ineligible to buy guns after  being found mentally unfit by a judge. 

Another madman with a gun. But let’s look at some of the madness that appears daily in local police reports. These incidents have occurred locally since the Midland/Odessa shootings and were reported by local media.

  • Two teenage boys allegedly attempted a carjacking, shooting at the woman driver who sped away. Confronted by police shortly after, one of the suspects shot Officer Adam Azua in the foot. The alleged shooter was apprehended. He had been arrested in July and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but posted a $75,000 bond and apparently had no difficulty obtaining another deadly weapon.
  • A drive-by shooter pumped five bullets into a woman’s house in Northwest San Antonio. She was hit by either a bullet or shrapnel while taking a shower.
  • A Guadalupe County man shot his own testicle while holstering his 9-mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun. Merciful police did not release his name.
  • A 2 a.m. pool party resulted in a teenage girl being shot in the stomach when a teenage boy decided to show off a gun. The girl tried to hide the wound for about an hour, then told her parents and was taken to the hospital. 
  • A 39-year-old man shot a man and a woman of similar age, seriously wounding them, before barricading himself for several hours and fatally shooting himself. Witnesses in the subdivision near Culebra Road and Loop 1604 said the shooter had been seen dragging a woman by her hair and shooting her multiple times in front of the house.
  • A 15-year-old boy shot and killed a woman who was apparently his mother at a home in near Northwest San Antonio, then called 911 to turn himself in. Police had been called to the home 11 times since March 2017. The calls involved violence, a gun, and mental health issues. 
  • A drive-by shooter sprayed more than 50 bullets into an Eastside home Saturday night without hitting anyone. He then drove into a pole and fled on foot.
  • A few hours later, in an unrelated incident eight miles east, a homeless man was shot and wounded under a bridge.
  • A 19-year-old man showed up at his family’s Southeastside home after 1 p.m. and died of a gunshot wound to the chest sustained earlier.
  • A 62-year-old man was sleeping in his bed about 1:30 a.m. when a bullet fired by a drive-by shooter grazed his leg. No one saw the shooter, but the man said it could be a relative who had recently threatened him.

This is a partial list. For one thing, it doesn’t include solitary suicides, which rarely make the news if the victim is not a public figure. I couldn’t get a list of suicides for the past few weeks, but last year 151 of Bexar County’s 275 suicide victims died by gunshot – 26 more than homicide gun victims. That’s nearly three gun suicides a week. Those kinds of numbers have been steady over the last five years, growing with the population

Some political leaders, the governor and president included, have quickly turned to mental health as a primary issue in mass shootings. The shooter in Midland/Odessa clearly had such issues, but the shooter in El Paso apparently does not.

A few of the local shootings recounted here may also involve mental health issues. 

But the greater madness is that these killings and attempted killings are treated as a normal thread in the American fabric. The accounts of nearly all of them appeared under small newspaper headlines in a collection of brief news items or in short segments on television newscasts.

That’s not a knock on the San Antonio Express-News or local TV stations. It’s a statement on the mental condition of America today. We regard shootings-as-usual as only modestly noteworthy. That’s the greater madness.

Also mad is the notion that the way to deal with this madness is for civilians to arm ourselves more heavily, because “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” For civilians to do that does happen, on rare occasions. It happened at Sutherland Springs, after the bad guy killed 26 and wounded 20. It didn’t happen at El Paso or Odessa, where police ended the slaughters. 

Nor did it happen in any of the stories listed above. Indeed, some of the shooters – the man who shot his own testicle and the teenager at the pool – weren’t bad guys with guns. They were idiots with guns.

The ratio between good guys with guns preventing harm and idiots with guns causing harm does not make a rational case for further gun sales.

I don’t know the answer. A major problem is that the madness itself reduces the prospects for diagnosis, much less cure. 

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke immediately received death threats for promising to take away weapons of war from civilians. Republican Texas state legislator Briscoe Cain tweeted, “My AR is ready for you, Robert Francis,” referring to his AR-15 semi-automatic and to O’Rourke.

Cain scoffs at the notion this was a threat, but I don’t think he was offering the gun to O’Rourke. 

What’s more, at least two Republican members of a Texas House committee appointed to study possible approaches to gun violence have received death threats. 

Anyone who thinks the Texas Legislature will take any action that will threaten Texas’s gun culture is – there’s no other word for it – crazy. 

More promising are efforts announced a week ago by local leaders including the county judge, the sheriff, the district attorney, and a number of judges. They can take some thoughtful measures, but their options are limited. 

Under state law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, they are overwhelmingly outgunned.

Rick Casey

Rick Casey's career spans four decades of award-winning reporting on San Antonio. He previously worked as a metro columnist for the former San Antonio Light and, later, the San Antonio Express-News.