On Saturday, December 6th, the 199th mass shooter of 2023 attacked an outlet mall in a Dallas, TX suburb. For our purposes, we will use the same criteria to define a mass shooting as the Gun Violence Archive: A shooting incident in which 4 or more victims are injured or killed by firearms, not including the perpetrator of the event.
Along with his tactical gear, AR-15 style rifle, and other weapons, he was wearing an insignia that authorities believe may be associated with extremist groups.
Investigators have unearthed an extensive social media presence, including neo-Nazi and White supremacist-related posts and images that authorities believe Garcia shared online.
The state Governor, Greg Abbott, fresh off attempting to victim blame those killed in the state’s previous mass shooting with a false accusation that they were undocumented immigrants, now says America doesn’t have a gun issue, it has a mental health issue.
“People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”
That’s a statement that deserves unpacking and exploration, because taken at face value, he’s not actually wrong. At least not until you add the context of the rest of his statement.
“What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence but going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it,” Abbott said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Republican governor also called for increasing penalties for stricter laws “to get guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and to increase penalties for criminals who possess guns.”
So, what is Texas doing “in a big-time way” to address this issue? What are the specifics?
Here is a rundown of some of the laws signed by Abbott that took affect as of Sept 1st, 2021, in the wake of that year’s school shootings. His primary solution then, eliminate the requirements for gun permits, background checks, and training:
- House Bill 1927: Known as permitless or constitutional carry, it allows Texans to carry handguns in public without a license and the background check and training that a license requires.
- House Bill 2622: Known as the “Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act,” it prohibits state agencies and local governments from enforcing new federal gun rules.
- House Bill 1500: Prevents government entities from banning the sale or transportation of firearms or ammunition during a declared disaster or emergency.
- House Bill 957: Exempts firearm suppressors that are made and remain in Texas from federal laws and regulations.
- House Bill 1407: Allows license holders to carry visible, holstered handguns anywhere in a motor vehicle, rather than having to wear the handgun in a shoulder or belt holster.
- House Bill 1387: Allows certain foster homes to store guns and ammunition together in the same locked location, rather than requiring the items to be stored separately.
- House Bill 1069: Allows certain first responders to carry handguns.
- House Bill 2112: Removes the requirement that handguns must be carried in a “shoulder or belt” holster, expanding what kinds of holsters are legal.
- House Bill 103: Creates a statewide active shooter alert system.
- House Bill 4346: Prohibits certain firearm restrictions on a property during the use of an easement.
- House Bill 29: Allows state-owned public buildings to provide self-service weapon lockers.
- House Bill 1920: Expands and clarifies what constitutes a secured area of an airport in relation to possessing a firearm.
- House Bill 2675: Requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to expedite the handgun license process for individuals “who are at increased risk of becoming victims of violence.”
- House Bill 918: Makes young adults between the ages of 18-20 eligible for a license to carry a handgun if they are protected under certain court orders related to family violence.
- House Bill 781: Allows junior college school marshals to carry concealed handguns rather than storing them.
- Senate Bill 741: Allows school marshals in public school districts, open-enrollment charters, and private schools to carry concealed handguns rather than storing them.
- Senate Bill 20: Allows hotel guests to carry and store firearms and ammunition in their rooms.
- Senate Bill 19: Prohibits government entities from contracting with businesses that “discriminate against the firearm or ammunition industries.”
- Senate Bill 162: Known as the “lie and try” bill, makes it a state crime to lie on a background check in order to illegally purchase a firearm.
- Senate Bill 550: Removes the requirement that handguns must be carried in a “shoulder or belt” holster, expanding what kinds of holsters are legal.
- Senate Bill 313: Creates a sales and use tax exemption for firearm safety equipment.
- Senate Bill 168: Requires schools to use best practices when conducting active shooter drills, so they’re less harmful to students’ mental health and wellbeing; went into effect immediately.
At the time those bills were passed into law, Texas became the 20th U.S. state to adopt permitless carry. As of this writing, there are now 26, with Florida becoming the most recent.
What, then, is Governor Abbott; Texas; other Republican-led states; other national Republicans; even attempting to do to reduce gun violence? To improve any health care access, let alone mental health care? To remove the societal stigma, especially from a Republican view point of needing mental health care? Or, any health care?
A 2022 ABC News analysis shows Texas has the highest number of counties with no providers.
Texas Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Kelli Weldon explained that the state has a mere 39 local mental and behavioral health authorities providing care to residents.
Of the state’s 254 counties, 172 are considered rural, according to Weldon.
Further, “Seventy-five percent of rural counties across the country have no mental health providers or fewer than 50 per 100,000 people, according to an ABC News analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data.“
This is all following the 2019 creation of “All Access Texas” a largely underfunded and mostly hidden program in the state of Texas that was supposed to address the very issue of the state’s many Mental Health Care deserts. It’s primary purpose seems to be to help those that have already committed crimes seek recovery, more than to help prevent such crimes from being committed or keeping the tools of efficient mass murder out of the hands of those most likely to commit it.
Realistically, if it were completely up to Republicans, even the care for gun violence victims would be only available to those rich enough to survive in a fully privatized health care system. For decades, they attempted to prevent the CDC from even compiling certain gun violence data or the use of any such data from being considered when debating changes to the law.
If mental health care is indeed the long-term solution to America’s gun violence what specific mental health care initiatives and improvements are gun rights advocates willing to embrace right now, today, to begin that process?
What short term milestones are they willing to enact immediately to set us on the path to a societal recovery by addressing the mental health symptoms of our gun violence #Culturalinertia?
Are we in agreement that feeling the need to carry a semi-automatic long gun to feel safe grocery shopping, for example, is itself a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.
Can we agree that the same mental health issue that leads to domestic violence is very likely to lead to gun violence if untreated?
Can we agree that if better availability of better mental health care is indeed the long-term solution to gun violence, then thorough, free, periodic, non-partisan mental health care screening must become a short term element for obtaining that long-term goal?
Or, are their collective cries of “mental health” just another tool to attempt to district us that the leading cause of American gun violence is that nothing about modern America’s gun rights are “well-regulated.”
I challenge you to find any Republican led piece of legislation, or even one a majority of Republicans support, from any state in the U.S. that addresses this by attempting to prevent those predisposed to such violence due to a lack of mental health care from obtaining guns.
What you will find, instead, is an abundance of issues of their offering of empty “thoughts and prayers,” their efforts to use their power and influence to increase the number of guns available and the ease with which they may be obtained, their efforts to use their power and influence to make the enforcement of any existing gun regulations — if not impossible — far more difficult, and their incessant knowingly smug embrace of Stochastic Terrorism to increase the usage of them as a primary tool in everyday conflict resolution and identity based politics.
It bears repeating, here, that if gun advocates don’t want the solution to be a Constitutional Amendment revoking the 2nd Amendment, then they must start contributing in good faith to real alternative solutions. Otherwise, they’re going to find themselves without a seat at the table for the discussion at all.