Collin County Politics: The Gun Edition

May 31, 2022

Picture: Plano’s Jenna Royal speaks with a reporter at the rally outside the NRA meeting in Houston.

Like many of you, I felt hopeless after hearing about the gun massacre in Uvalde, especially since it came on the heels of the gun massacre in Buffalo. I don’t know if I even have it within me to hope this time will be different. I naively thought we as a nation would do something after Sandy Hook. We clearly don’t care about killing adults but I thought we’d at least care about massacring children (especially the party of “family values”). Nope. We actually did the opposite with more states passing laws expanding access to guns rather than enacting common-sense protections.

Then I thought the Parkland survivors would get things done with their activism and they did garner some victories. Multiple states, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people. But the backlash was swift and Republican politicians, especially in Texas, had a gun law lovefest.

Since the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, my cynicism remains strong, especially as gun incidents keep happening. Only a day after the Uvalde massacre, a Richardson student was arrested inside Berkner High School after police received reports of an armed man walking toward campus. Although nothing happened (thankfully), police found a pistol and a replica AR-15 style Orbeez rifle inside the suspect’s vehicle. The minor has been charged with unlawful carrying weapons in a weapon-free school zone. But that wasn’t even the only gun incident in North Texas last week! Two days after the Uvalde massacre, a parent’s concealed gun accidentally went off at Duff Elementary School in Arlington and the idiot was wounded in the leg. While I’m happy no one was truly hurt (the wounded leg is karma), they easily could’ve been. How is it legal for anyone to have a concealed weapon at a school?

I’m tired of hearing that one answer to these increasingly frequent gun massacres is increased police presence in schools. That didn’t work out too well for the kids in Uvalde, did it? Yet multiple districts in DFW, including Dallas, Plano, Richardson, and Keller, are doing just that. I also don’t like the active shooter drills students have to endure. One of the gun laws passed by the Texas legislature in 2021 was Senate Bill 168, a law requiring schools to use best practices when conducting active shooter drills so they’re less harmful to students’ mental health and wellbeing. Do you know what would truly be less harmful to students’ mental health and wellbeing? Fewer gun massacres! How about we deal with that problem rather than subjecting our youth to intensive trauma? Uvalde’s Robb Elementary was a “hardened” school. That didn’t work out well either.

I’m also sick to death of hearing about how mental health treatment is another answer. As a psychologist, I absolutely believe mental healthcare is vital to people and communities. If Republicans truly want to increase funding for mental healthcare, I’m all for it! But they have no intention of doing that. For the GOP, mental health treatment is a convenient excuse they discard once the crisis is over. Over the last 2 years, Greg Abbott cut $200 million from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the entity which oversees mental health services. He sent that money to the border. Instead of using taxpayer dollars to solve problems and make people’s lives better, Abbott wasted $200 million of our money to play politics. He did that during a pandemic in which mental health needs increased! If that isn’t bad enough, Texas ranks 50 out of 51 territories for mental health access. Yep. That’s what I see every day and it’s both infuriating and heartbreaking.

All of us – yes, even Republicans – know the true answer to this problem: fewer weapons of mass destruction and fewer guns in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Republicans don’t want to admit this, so we need to make it harder for them to ignore it. It’s no accident that Texas has an incredibly high number of mass shootings. In the last five years, the NRA shelled out more than $2 million – more than double what it spent in any other state – to lobby the Texas Legislature. They got a lot of bang for their buck (so to speak). Texas has the highest gun per capita rate. In 2021, Texas Republican-led state legislature officially anointed us a “Second Amendment sanctuary” so we could limit firearm restrictions and expand gun access across the state.

Nothing seems to faze them. After the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting, the best solution the GOP-led state legislature could come up with was to no longer limit the number of school faculty and staff who can be designated as armed school marshals. A 2021 law allows the marshals to carry them in the classroom instead of keeping them locked. After the 2019 El Paso shooting, Abbott’s only solution was to pass bills that “involved arming the public to stop mass shooters.” None of those have done a single thing to curb gun violence. We need to start labeling Republican politicians as baby killers and murderers because that’s what they are. Nice is off the table; it’s time to fight.

Nobody’s coming to save us. Other countries just shake their heads at our completely preventable epidemic of gun violence. Do you know who can save us? We can! We can insist upon legislative changes if we start showing up and doing the work. People are already laying the foundation. While the NRA convention met in Houston, the two largest teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – yay for organized labor! – assembled down the street at City Hall to hold a roundtable forum. Student and teacher advocates, including several teachers and students who were present at some of the country’s worst mass school shootings, demanded immediate action from lawmakers to stop the country’s gun violence.

Instances of individuals challenging this status quo also gave me hope. British reporter Mark Stone from Sky News showed Ted Cruz to be the craven psychopath we know him to be. Later, while Cruz was at a restaurant, Benjamin Hernandez – a member of Indivisible Houston – confronted Cruz about his stance on gun control. That’s right! Never give the man a moment of peace. Journalist Lauren Windsor snuck inside the NRA convention before Trump’s speech, specifically giving lie to Cruz’s insistence that “a single point of entry” is all that’s needed to keep kids safe. During an NRA meeting, Jason Selvig of Good Liars repeatedly thanked Wayne LaPierre (NRA CEO and evil incarnate) for all his thoughts and prayers across numerous mass shootings. Although LaPierre figured out it was satire, many in the sparse audience did not and clapped once Selvig’s speech was finished.

And then there’s Beto. He was so outraged by the massacre that, 15 minutes into Greg Abbott’s press conference on the shooting, Beto marched up to the stage and let all the old white guys up there have it: “This is on you until you choose to do something different. This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.” It was glorious. If you haven’t seen the video, you should. The indignation of the old white guys led to many pointed pictures and hilarious memes and got Boss Hogg (from The Dukes of Hazzard) trending on Twitter. As a Gen-Xer, I found that fun (you have to find humor whenever you can)! But Beto didn’t stop there. He went outside and held a press conference – in English and Spanish – where he was thanked by Uvalde parents who also had been kicked out of the press conference. He plans on holding a town hall in Dallas on Wednesday. He’s such a rock star!

Photo by Jenna Royal

The protest outside of the NRA convention and the rally at Discovery Park were wonderful. My thanks to Jenna Royal and Angela Haran for telling me about their experiences. Protesters stood outside of the convention center holding signs and yelling “Baby killer!” and “Murderer” at attendees. Few seemed affected by this, just continuing merrily on their way in or out. Doctors in scrubs with “Doctors for Gun Laws” milled around, giving mute testimony for how gun violence affects them specifically and our healthcare system in general. One stupid white guy ill-advisedly tried to wrest a bullhorn away from three enraged women. He quickly ran away.

Photo by Angela Haran

The rally was more emotional. People stood with pictures of murdered students around their necks. Children stood with signs saying, “Am I next?” on them. Gun violence survivors shared their traumatic experiences and parents gave agonizing accounts of the loss of their children or loved ones. Black Lives Matter did an amazing job ensuring that the voices of communities of color were amplified. Moms Demand Action did a phenomenal job of combatting disinformation on gun safety legislation and making sure people were getting involved in the movement long term. Activists like David Hogg spoke as did legislators like Linda Hidalgo, Shelia Jackson Lee, and Al Green. I was glad Democratic candidate for Attorney General, Rochelle Garza, spoke too. Obviously, Beto was there. He demanded Abbott call a special session to pass gun safety laws and asked members of the NRA to join us in the fight for gun safety.

Photo by Rebecca Wilson

I’ve been disappointed with the mainstream media and their reporting on this whole debacle. In addition to the jumbled reporting on the Uvalde massacre itself, I also came across several media outlets claiming Trump spoke to a “packed” crowd and that around 50,000 people attended the NRA convention. Pictures from within the convention showed otherwise. Meetings and exhibit halls were sparsely attended. Photos of Trump’s audience showed an older, mostly white and male group that filled less than half of the auditorium. Those outside the convention also cast doubt on the 50,000 number.

Many media reports put the protest numbers at anywhere from 500-800 people. An independent journalist and others present at the rally estimated the crowd was in the thousands. Pictures seem to bear that out. I’m puzzled by these major discrepancies from the mainstream media. I don’t want to be all conspiracy theory about it but these seem like unforced errors and it makes me a bit distrustful, especially since I know lots of outlets are owned by major corporations and Republicans. Sigh. We’ve got a lot of work to do!

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.


Local Politics: Most Americans support common-sense gun safety regulations yet our Republican representatives aren’t paying attention to us, probably because they’re bought off by the NRA (looking at you, Ted Cruz!). But here’s the thing: there are more of us than there are of them. If we vote and participate in our democracy in big numbers, we can win! Now is the time to flex our power.

Join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. It isn’t hard work and it’s often very interesting. After all, local politics is what affects you the most! Contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 1

  1. “Am I next?” That one sign alone should have been enough to change hearts and minds. Where are the self-described “mama bears” who would do whatever they can to protect their children? Why aren’t they storming the legislatures across the country? WHY are they voting for politicians who are putting their children directly and literally in the line of fire? I’m so tired of the blindness and inability to see that NRA politicians are KILLING US.

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