Five of the ten deadliest mass shootings that have occurred in America in the last eight years took place in Texas. The latest was in Allen, Texas in early May, when an AR-15-style gunman opened fire at a crowded mall, killing at least eight people, and injuring seven more.
CNN reported that the number of mass shootings is not a coincidence, given the number of guns available to the public.
According to an Everytown for Gun Safety study of data from 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas is one of the states with the most liberal gun laws. According to Everytown, this is the second highest rate in the nation and well above the average national rate of 55% households with one or more firearms.
According to a study published in 2021 by Everytown, there is a direct link between states with weaker laws on guns and higher gun death rates. This correlation is most evident in Texas where mass shootings have tripled over the last five years. Mass shootings in the United States also nearly doubled between 2018 and the end of the previous year according to the Gun Violence Archive.
CNN and GVA define mass shootings as shootings that cause injury or death to four or more individuals, excluding the shooter.
In January, the deadliest US shooting of this year took place in California, a state with some of the most strict gun laws in the nation. Eleven people were killed, and nine others injured, at a Lunar New Year party in Monterey Park.
Texas has loosened gun restrictions in recent years despite the increase in high-profile mass killings, including the one in Uvalde where a shooter killed 19 children and 2 teachers in Robb elementary school last May.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia stated that the measure makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to distinguish between a 'good man with a weapon' and a 'bad guy with a pistol'.
Republicans who support the bill have argued, however, that by removing this requirement, they remove an 'artificial bar' to residents' constitutional right to carry arms and ensure more Texans can 'protect themselves or their family' in public.
Charles Schwertner (a Republican state senator) said previously that if you own a gun, you should also be allowed to carry it.
According to an Everytown analysis of CDC data that tracks homicides as well as accidental deaths and suicides involving guns, gun homicides have increased in Texas by more than 90 percent from 2012 to 2021. This compares to a nationwide increase of 73%.
The Trace, a news organization dedicated to reporting America's gun-violence epidemic, used the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System to determine the number of guns sold in Texas. Experts say that Texas doesn't require background checks on all gun transfers. This allows people to obtain guns from the illegal market.
Gun rights activists and conservatives including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has continued to call for weaker gun legislation. They claim that gun ownership and more firearms increase public safety, a position that is at odds with experts on gun violence and statistics.
After the Allen mass shooting and other incidents, Abbott and his supporters have attempted to shift the attention to mental illness being one of the major drivers of gun violence. Gun violence and policy experts strongly disagree with this argument. They say that the two crises, while related, are distinct public health issues.
"Governor Abbott has repeatedly put gun manufacturer profits before public safety, statistics and data bedamned," said Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action. The group has been advocating for gun safety since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, where 20 children and 6 educators were killed.
The governor and his Republican supporters, whether in the state or federal governments, always point fingers at things that have no data to prove they're the actual cause. Whether it's mental illnesses, single-parent homes, violent videogames, too many exits, not enough, etc. Watts continued, 'The list goes on.
Mass shooting at Texas Elementary School: Pictures
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Texas has experienced mass shootings before
Authorities claim that the gunman who carried out the Allen mass shooting, Mauricio Garca, 33, wrote on the internet about his support for Nazi ideologies before he stepped out of his car and fired an AR-15 style rifle in the Dallas suburb.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety Regional director Hank Sibley, Garcia had eight guns with him. Three were on his person and the other five were in his car.
Allen was also the scene of a massacre that killed children and relatives who were out shopping with each other. State officials reported that at least seven other people were also injured during the shooting, which lasted between three and four minutes, before a mall police officer, who was not identified, ran to the scene to kill the gunman.
A US mass shooting has once again ripped apart the lives of people who were doing routine things, such as going to the grocery store or attending a Sweet 16 Party.
We get upset when we hear about mass shooters, because they are so disturbing, frightening, and irrational. It's everything that we don't like in our everyday lives, said Jeffrey Swanson. He is a professor at Duke University, who specializes on gun violence and mental illnesses.
But on the same day as any of these shootings, 140 people died in the United States. This is the drip, drop, drop of gun violence. Swanson stated that we need to change our culture.
The recent mass shootings in Texas stand out, as they are not like the others. Nine people were killed in a Waco pub in 2015, 26 at a Sutherland Springs church in 2017, 10 at a Santa Fe High School in 2018, and 23 at an El Paso mall in 2019.
In the same month, shootings at Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York in a supermarket prompted a massive public outcry from Democrats, gun safety experts, gun violence specialists, parents, and entire communities. This pressure was intense on legislators to pass stricter gun laws.
In June of last year, Joe Biden, the President, signed the Bipartisan Safety Communities Act into law - the first significant federal legislation to combat gun violence since 1994's 10-year ban on assault weapons. The legislation provided incentives to states to pass red-flag laws, and funding for crisis intervention programs. However, it did not ban any weapons.
Abbott and Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick briefly considered a gun-control proposal that would make buying a firearm more difficult for Texans. Abbott, in his 2021 State of the State Address, stressed the importance of 'erecting a complete wall to prevent any government official from treading on Texas' gun rights.
Watts stated that parents were afraid to send their children to school, regardless of the political party. If your children are not safe, it is impossible to focus on anything else. These shooting tragedies make Americans single-issue voters.
Abbott blames mental illness, but funding questions are raised
In an interview with Fox News Sunday the day after the massacre at Allen, Abbott once again brought mental health to the forefront, saying that there is an increase in "anger and violent behavior" and the root of the problem is'mental problems.
CNN reported that the governor's statement to increase funding for mental services echoes his remarks made at a press conference two days after Uvalde, where he said it was a "mental health challenge" when someone shoots another person with a gun.
CNN affiliate WFAA reports that despite the Governor's promises to close mental health service gaps, Abbott diverted roughly $211 millions from the Health and Human Services Commission (the state agency responsible for mental health services) less than a month before the Uvalde Shooting.
WFAA reported that the state funding allocated to the agency has been swapped for federal aid which was given to Texas in order to help the state recover from the pandemic. Abbott wrote to state leaders to let them know that the transfer of funding 'will have no impact on any agency or program functions,' WFAA reported.
Andrew Mahaleris said in a CNN statement that the Governor 'didn't, in no uncertain words, cut funding for mental health services provided to Texans. Governor Abbott has worked tirelessly to fund and expand mental healthcare programs and services in Texas.
Texas does not have a red flag law, also known as a extreme risk protection order. This allows the police or family members to ask a court to temporarily confiscate a person's guns if it is deemed that they pose a danger. According to Giffords Law Center, extreme risk laws reduced firearm suicide rates by 14% in Connecticut and Indiana between 1981 and 2015
Swanson says that there is no evidence to suggest mental illness is the cause of America's gun-violence crisis. He said that the mental health system was fragmented and overwhelmed. Many people with serious mental illness, which 'impairs the brain's abilities to reason, perceive reality, and regulate mood', end up in criminal court.
Swanson stated that 'that's a huge problem which costs our society hundreds billions of dollars every year'. Swanson said, 'But this is not really related to violence. The problem of gun violence is just on the edge. The mass shootings have brought these two issues to the forefront, but I think that 'fixing mental health', as Abbott and others say, is a good solution to another public health issue.
CNN asked Abbott's office several more questions, asking why, despite data and research that proved otherwise, he had focused on the need for funding mental health to combat gun violence. His office didn't provide an answer. Abbott's office did not respond to questions regarding his efforts to reduce gun violence and address the high rate of gun ownership in Texas.
Joshua Horwitz is the co-director of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Gun Violence Solutions. He says that Texas and other states without strong gun laws could adopt measures like requiring a background check for all gun purchases, or banning magazines with high capacity as a way to reduce the number of shootings.
We must reduce gun violence on a global scale. The strategies we are laying out can have a significant impact on mass shootings. Horwitz added that they will also have a significant impact on other forms of gun violence.
He said: 'But, in the end, it's the United States that has an easy access to guns.' "We do not have more mental issues than other countries." Guns are the problem, not video games.
The majority of gun violence isn't caused by mental illness
Swanson, along with a team of researchers in 2015, studied the possible link between firearm deaths and mental illnesses. The researchers looked at three categories of mental health in all 50 US states, including the CDC reported number of firearm related deaths per 100,000 people.
The correlation is about zero. Swanson stated that there is no correlation at all.
The group also examined any relationship between firearm-related death and three categories of gun-related data, including estimated rates of gun ownership in households; restrictiveness of gun laws in states; and the rate that guns used for crimes were exported and used to commit crimes in other States. Swanson stated that they determined the three firearm categories are statistically highly associated with firearm fatality rates.
Swanson stated that even if the United States hypothetically cured every serious mental illness, and removed the possibility of an afflicted individual obtaining a firearm, the rate of gun violence in the United States would still only decrease by less than 4 percent.
He added that 'ninety six percent would still be there, because it is caused by other factors,' such as childhood trauma exposure, substance abuse, and impulsive aggression. These causes are interconnected and overlap in many ways. It is therefore difficult to predict violence.
Swanson cited his research to say that psychiatrists are wrong half the time when they predict violent behavior in a patient.