A mass shooting at an Allen, Texas, outlet mall Saturday afternoon killed nine people, including the suspected assailant, and injured at least seven. So far in 2023, there have been at least 200 mass shootings — defined as incidents in which at least four people have been shot or killed — according to the Gun Violence Archive.
It is the second mass shooting in Texas in just over a week; police arrested 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa on Tuesday after he allegedly shot and killed five people including a 9-year-old child in his Cleveland, Texas, neighborhood on April 28. Despite repeated mass shootings, including one at Robb Elementary School in the city of Uvalde that killed 19 children and two adults a year ago, Texas has loosened its gun control policies in recent years.
Those who were killed reportedly range in age from 5 to 61, according to Reuters. A police officer already on the scene is reported to have killed the gunman.
Other nations, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, have taken immediate action to curb the proliferation of firearms, in particular highly lethal weapons like semiautomatic rifles, in the wake of mass shootings. In Serbia this week, after two consecutive mass shootings, populist President Aleksandar Vucic promised an almost total disarmament, though whether and how that will be accomplished remains to be seen.
The United States is the only wealthy country with such high rates of death and injury due to gun violence, as Vox’s Nicole Narea, Li Zhou, and Ian Millhiser previously wrote. An average of 120 people are killed by guns each day in America, including homicides and suicides, totaling about 43,375 such deaths each year.
Despite such horrific numbers, US politicians — in Texas, but also on the federal level — refuse to enact gun control measures that could appreciably reduce the number of mass shootings and gun deaths in this country. Congress did pass bipartisan gun control legislation in 2022, which addressed some causes of gun violence, including expanding red-flag laws meant to remove firearms from people found to be a danger to themselves or others, as well as closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to prevent people convicted of domestic violence charges while in a dating relationship from having firearms.
Texas’s gun laws are “loose and dangerous”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, blamed mental illness for the nation’s notorious gun violence problem, telling Fox News Sunday, “What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence by going to its root cause which is addressing the mental health problems behind it.” Abbott also said that he would head to Allen on Sunday to “begin the process of providing hope and healing.”
“This is our reality in Texas,” state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde and San Antonio, tweeted Saturday. “Another mass shooting here due to Abbott and the GOP’s loose and dangerous gun laws.”
This is our reality in #Texas.— Senator Roland Gutierrez (@RolandForTexas) May 6, 2023
Another mass shooting here due to Abbott and the GOP’s loose and dangerous gun laws.
More blood on their hands.
Our hearts are with you #Allen. #EnoughIsEnough https://t.co/wSMg95ANqv
Abbott told Fox News Sunday that Texas legislators were working on measures to “get guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and to increase penalties for criminals [who] possess guns,” without providing further details.
As the Texas Tribune reported in 2022 after the Uvalde shooting, Texas Republicans have shown a pattern of considering stricter gun legislation — only to reverse course and loosen restrictions instead. After a 2018 mass shooting in Santa Fe, Abbott called for a “red flag” law — until Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other gun control advocates steered him away from such a measure. Then, after multiple mass shootings in 2019, including a racist incident at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 23 people, Patrick and Abbott reportedly considered an expanded background check, which eventually went nowhere.
Instead, the Texas legislature in 2021 passed a bill allowing Texans over 21 to carry a firearm without a license or training. Abbott signed that bill in June of that year. Just this week Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, a San Antonio Democrat, proposed a bill to require public and charter schools to offer trauma first-aid training to children starting in the third grade. “Students are already very aware of the prevalence of school shootings; giving them the tools necessary to stop the preventable death of a classmate is common sense,” Gervin-Hawkins said in a statement to CBS Austin.
Texas’s legislative session is set to end May 29, so no new gun control measures are likely to be introduced before that date. Gutierrez has filed a multitude of gun control measures during the 2023 session, including one to raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic weapon and ban the sale of ammunition to children under 18, the Texas Tribune reported last month.
“We’ve already filed 24 different bills after Uvalde, any number of which could have possibly prevented this tragedy, or others like it,” Gutierrez’s director of communications Jorge Vasquez told Vox. “The ball is really in, and really has been, in Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott, and [Texas House Speaker] Dade Phelan’s court.”