San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says Texas' leaders make it hard for cities to prevent mass shootings

'If more guns in our community made us a safer community, the United States would've been the safest community in the world a long time ago,' the mayor said.

click to enlarge Mayor Ron Nirenberg responds to a question during a 2019 press conference. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Mayor Ron Nirenberg responds to a question during a 2019 press conference.
Texas leaders have made made it more difficult for communities to prevent mass slayings, Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Texas Tribune during a one-on-one interview Wednesday afternoon at San Antonio College.

“At some point, I and every other voter in the state of Texas needs to demand an answer, needs to hear their answers of how they’re going to end this scourge of violence that’s happening all across the state and across our country," Nirenberg said during the interview with Tribune Editor-in-Chief Sewell Chan.

Meeting a day after the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, the event's only spontaneous applause erupted after Nirenberg expressed incredulity to Republican proposals to arm school teachers.

"If more guns in our community made us a safer community, the United States would've been the safest community in the world a long time ago," he said.

Beyond the inquiries about mass shootings, Chan asked timely questions about common-sense gun legislation, pandemic preparedness, economic integration with the rest of Texas and the ongoing renovation of the Alamo.

"Trauma" was the watchword of Nirenberg's interview, and sums up much of what both the city and the country have been living through for the past two years. One of the under-acknowledged aspects of an elected leader's job description in the current environment is serving as a collective grief counselor.

Nirenberg was called upon to do that repeatedly during travails of COVID, especially as Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly obstructed municipal mitigation efforts such as occupancy limits and mask mandates. 

"When a state seems to be at war with its cities, cities are going to rely on their populations and their ability to convene as leaders for a common cause, a common purpose," Nirenberg said. "And here in San Antonio our common purpose was to care for each other, and to make sure we could get through this pandemic together."

Even so, more than 5,000 San Antonians died due to COVID-19 — four more in the last week alone.

During the 20 minutes of questions from the audience, Nirenberg handled queries about homelessness, sidewalks, voter turnout, foster kids, mental health and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

"The tents that are under the overpasses become political hot potatoes, but I will tell you this: the city of San Antonio is not going to go in and abate homeless encampments just because we don't like the sight of them," the mayor said. "That's not what we do. We try to help folks compassionately, and we try to make sure that folks have an option to get into services."

The only contentious moment during the interview transpired when one audience member accused Nirenberg of "funneling public money into private sector businesses," some of which "are religious organizations exempt from licensing and regulation."

Nirenberg looked surprised and invited the questioner to discuss the matter after the Q&A.

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