Bad Takes: Unpacking the GOP's absurd post-Uvalde rhetoric on gun ownership

Beware of anyone who argues that unspeakable atrocities like Uvalde have nothing to do with the United States ranking No. 1 in civilian firearm ownership.

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott approaches the memorial in front of Robb Elementary School as the gathered crowd boos. - Joseph Guillen
Joseph Guillen
Gov. Greg Abbott approaches the memorial in front of Robb Elementary School as the gathered crowd boos.
Bad Takes is a periodic column of opinion and analysis.

Second Amendment absolutists are on the defensive in the aftermath of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, flailing around to postpone meaningful gun control with a flotilla of red herrings.

Gov. Greg Abbott decided not to call Texas legislators back to session until next year, and although he quickly reduced the 19 slain schoolchildren and their two dead teachers to "a mental health challenge" just two months after he slashed more than $200 million from mental health services in Texas.

At the National Rifle Association convention held in Houston a mere 3 days after the deadliest school shooting in state history, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called for a "complicated and multifaceted" analysis of America's "cultural sickness" starting with "declining church attendance," "video games" and "social media bullying."

For Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who along with Abbott is up for reelection in November (check your voter registration here) — the immediate and obvious "best answer" is arming teachers.

When Democrats propose closing the gun show loophole, Republicans consider that politicization, but when GOP officials propose more guns in schools, that's setting politics aside to protect the nation's kids.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg batted down Paxton's proposal last month, arguing, "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."

And on Tuesday, the Bexar County Commissioners Court unanimously approved more than $30 million for proactive steps to reduce the prevalence of gun violence, including education on responsible gun ownership, school-based mental health and violence prevention programs. Hell, it even approved $100,000 to distribute free gun locks.

At least our city and county officials are trying. To call mass murderers clinically insane is soporific, however. We'd like to think no one in their right mind would mow down a bunch of people with a firearm, just as we'd like to think no one in their right mind would confuse Taco Bell with Mexican food.

Truth is, almost no one dealing with mental illness will ever commit a heinous crime like the Uvalde slaughter, and most mass shooters don't suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They're ordinary anxious, suicidal depressives like the rest of us. Unlike elsewhere, though, the disgruntled and the vicious in Texas can buy two ArmaLite-15s on their 18th birthday.

The question is whether opponents of gun reform will be able to run out the clock on our short attention span — yet again — or whether the child-sized coffins make a difference this time? Surely part of our "cultural sickness," to requote Cruz, involves becoming fatalistically inured to mass death.

One in five Americans believe there's simply no way to stop mass shootings, despite their rarity in the rest of the developed world. In 2019, Germany and Australia both had one mass shooting each; Canada, Italy, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom had none.

That same year, the U.S. had more than 400. Do they attend church more in the United Kingdom? Do they play fewer violent video games in Japan?

Beware of anyone who argues that unspeakable atrocities like Uvalde have nothing to do with the United States ranking No. 1 in civilian firearm ownership. They're either lying to themselves or to you.

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