Texas governor scared after Uvalde school shooting
Texans are tough. Texans are tough. The Texans hold on. We all know the stereotypes.
But what does a Texan who is afraid to run look like?
He looks like Governor Greg Abbott at his Friday night press conference.
And he was afraid: afraid of people like him. Fear of Uvalde residents in particular, who turned on him and the police over the official account given on Wednesday of what happened at Robb Elementary School when it was attacked by a gun-toting teenager.
There are two images to look at that tell the story.
The first is the scene where the Governor gave his press conference on Wednesday – the one with the story of the hero-cop confronting the shooter outside the school.
There’s the Governor, center stage, in a dark shirt that looked a bit like a uniform – he had a badge on the left side of his chest – the word “Governor” on the right side, like his badge of grade.
Around him was a group of men – all men – many of them in uniform or something that looked like a uniform. A number of cowboy hats. It was yet another scene from the Texas Rangers mythology.
Compare that with the photo from the Governor’s Friday night press conference.
There he was seated, at the same table, but dressed in civilian clothes, a sports jacket and an open-necked shirt – humble.
Next to him, a man, also in civilian clothes. And four women, one seated to his right, the others standing behind him. This is the semiotics of furious coasting.
It never smelled from the start. The account – largely by the governor – of the gunman being confronted by a police officer from the school, then by two other police officers who were injured, then by a group of police officers bursting into the room where the gunman was and shooting him on it to end the horror, just wasn’t consistent.
There was no timeline, and the narrative raised more questions than it answered.
Yes, it was very early in the investigation of a deeply traumatic event. No, the police did not have – could not have collected – a full and definitive account of everything that happened.
Yes, many people were suffering – police officers, parents, children – a small community devastated by extreme violence.
But 24 hours after the attack, some basic facts should have been clear. One of those facts – either there was a school policeman who confronted the shooter, or there wasn’t.
The governor told us there were.
In fact, there was none. He gave the impression that everything happened quite quickly. In fact, the incident took place over an hour and twenty minutes.
Maybe the nose let it down. Or maybe he went against his instincts
I have been a journalist for a long time. Over the decades, I’ve noticed that really good politicians have a sort of superpower, an ability to sense political danger and get out of its way.
It’s the nose – they can sense when something is wrong, when someone is giving them a line or trying to do it. It’s not about facts, logic or knowing things – it’s about reading people and situations in an instant and making judgments – call it instinct.
For a high-level politician, instinct will trigger muscle memory-like avoidance action.
As when you are on a scene surrounded by cops, invite the cops to tell their own story: so if they resell fiction, the author will be duly acknowledged.
But if you’re a civilian in a quasi-uniform, with a star-shaped insignia and a rank indicator on it, you’ve somehow joined the team, rather than acting as a separate higher authority – the one the cops are supposed to answer to.
It’s not like he lacks experience in these situations. Since becoming governor in 2014, he has overseen the response to mass shootings in which more than 90 people have been killed, including attacks on a church in Sutherland Springs, a high school in Santa Fe, a supermarket in El Paso and shootings on the streets of Dallas, Odessa and Midland.
Maybe the nose let it down. Or maybe he went against his instincts. Or maybe his politics acted like Kryptonite on his political superpower.
The whole tenor of Wednesday’s press conference felt like something that was designed to fit into a larger political context – that guns and gun laws were not a fundamental part of the problem.
In this worldview, or ideology, or talking points – shared widely and quickly by politicians, commentators and some media – the issue was the mental health of young men, the internet, the breakdown of society, the churches, father figures, work, community, the absence of impregnable Fort Knox-like structures in every school in the country, the absence of a Chinese-style surveillance society in which every Tik-Tok, Instagram and Messenger post by all the world is overseen by some sort of Big Brother security apparatus that sends a SWAT team to take down the shooter before the shooter has a chance to become a shooter.
Former US President Donald Trump was on message when he addressed the National Rifle Association convention in Houston at the same time Governor Abbott was telling us how ‘livid’ he was that he was being told says inaccurate things.
Mr Trump said: “What we need now is a top-down security overhaul in schools across the country. Every building should have a single point of entry. There should be a having strong exterior fencing, metal detectors and the use of new technologies to ensure that no unauthorized person can enter the school with a weapon.
“No one should ever be able to approach a classroom until it has been checked, scanned, vetted and fully approved.
“Furthermore, classroom doors should be hardened to make them lockable from the inside and close to intruders from the outside. And most importantly, from this day forward, every school in America should have a policeman or constable of armed resources on duty every time.
“Additionally, in every police department in America, we need rigorous training in active shooter protocols to locate and immediately eliminate the target. nationwide policing.
“It’s not a question of money. It’s a question of will. If the United States has 40 billion dollars to send to Ukraine, we should be able to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our children and. We have spent billions in Iraq, billions in Afghanistan, we have nothing. Before we build a nation for the rest of the world, we should build safe schools for our own children in our own nation. .
“We can certainly all agree that our school shouldn’t be the easiest target – our school should be our country’s toughest target.”
But again, there was no mention in Mr. Trump’s speech of the possible role that restricting gun sales might have in reducing mass shootings. He and Governor Abbott believe this amounts to taking away people’s constitutional rights.
The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun
Everything else – however unlikely – is to blame, but not the lax gun laws. How could it be otherwise?
The governor signed into law a ‘right to carry’ bill last year that makes Texas one of the least restrictive places in the United States when it comes to carrying a concealed weapon – no license or training is required.
In 2015, he signed legislation allowing the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses.
The reasoning behind such moves is summed up in the phrase “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun”.
So it makes sense that since most people are “good guys”, the more good guns there are, the fewer shots there will be. So more guns are the answer, not less guns.
That’s why Donald Trump received a round of applause at the NRA for calling on “highly qualified teachers” to be allowed to “conceal-carry” weapons in the classroom.
In the space of ten days, this country has seen two incidents of double-digit mass murders perpetrated by 18-year-old men with assault rifles.
Here in Texas, you have to be 21 to buy a lottery ticket, vape cigarettes, rent a car, or buy a beer or other type of alcohol.
These are time-limited restrictions considered to be for the good of individuals and society at large. But it’s not right, according to the NRA and its supporters, to enforce a restriction on people over 21 buying assault rifles. It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to turn eighteen and go buy a military-grade semi-automatic rifle and as much ammo as they can carry.
Federal law imposes an age limit of 21 for the purchase of handguns. But this does not apply to “long guns”, such as the AR-15 type of military rifle. This is one of the reasons why this type of weapon appears so frequently in killings carried out by teenagers – it is legal to buy them.
Six states have banned the sale of guns to those under 21 – Florida, Washington, Vermont, California, Illinois and Hawaii. The NRA is trying to have the Florida restriction struck down by the courts on Second Amendment grounds. In the other 44, you have to be 21 to buy a pistol, but 18 to buy an assault rifle.
Opponents of tougher gun laws say there is a mental health crisis driving — if not the root — of America’s epidemic of school killings.
There may be more truth to this claim than they realize.