Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), an ardent “gun rights” supporter, tried desperately on Saturday to focus on “mental health” issues instead of such matters as easy access to assault rifles as he spoke following the slaughter at a Walmart in his home state that left at least 22 people dead.
Abbott once boasted he was “embarrassed” that Texas was second to California in gun sales. He insisted Saturday at a press conference that the state Legislature passed “bill after bill after bill” to protect students from school shootings after eight teenagers and two teachers were fatally shot last year at Santa Fe High School in Texas. One of the bills Abbott signed into law involved arming more teachers. None of the bills involved increased gun control.
Abbott acknowledged that “we did not, as far as I know, evaluate for and plan for an incident like this,” referring to the Saturday shooting in El Paso. (Watch his comments in the video above beginning at 21:36.)
“That said, I can tell you that perhaps the most profound and agreed-upon issue that came out of” legislative hearings on school shooting was the “need for the state and for society to do a better job of dealing with challenging mental health-based issues,” Abbott added. “We know that’s a component ... probably ... to any type of shooting that takes place.”
Abbott said funding has been provided “for the state to better address” mental health issues.
Police have identified the gunman at Walmart as 21-year-old Patrick Crucius, but have said nothing about his mental health. Police and the FBI are investigating a hate-fueled anti-immigrant “manifesto” that may be linked to Crucius, authorities revealed at the press conference.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat whose district is based in El Paso, spoke up immediately after Abbott at the press conference and said the suspected manifesto suggested that hate was the actual driving force behind the violence. “The manifesto narrative is fueled by hate, and it’s fueled by racism and bigotry and division,” she said.
Abbott also said Saturday that “Texas grieves” — and asked for prayers. He later angrily snapped at reporters that it was too soon to focus on the “politics” of gun control while “there are bodies” still to be recovered.
“I think we need to focus more on memorials before we start the politics,” he said.
Abbott is a favorite of the National Rifle Association, which recently hailed 10 pro-gun laws he signed into law this year. “Governor Greg Abbott has now signed all of the NRA-supported legislation which the Texas Legislature sent him during the 2019 session,” the NRA web site boasted.
In June, Abbott vetoed a bill that would have made it a state crime to bring guns into secure areas of airports.
His 2015 tweet encouraging Texans to “pick up the pace” by buying more guns was a particular target of several barbs Saturday.