Mass Shootings in Texas: First They Take the Heart, Then the Soul
Once more, the tight knit fabric of a community has had its heart cut to pieces with the precision of a surgeon, but instead of a scalpel, the damage was done by bullets from a gun. A gun fired by someone who never should have been in the position to cause such maximum damage in such a short amount of time with such a minimum amount of effort. The city of El Paso, a community that is literally “The Pass” between the two worlds of the United States and Mexico, has now joined a group that no one wants to be a part of, the site of a U.S. mass shooting. However, what the citizens of El Paso don’t know is that there’s a good chance that they will join another group that is equally as painful as the first, ignored victims of mass trauma.
The second list is almost identical to the first and it includes, Charleston SC, Sandy Hook CT, Orlando FL, Las Vega NV, Aurora CO, Washington DC, Pittsburgh PA, Columbine CO, San Bernadino CA, Gilroy CA, Ft. Hood TX, Binghamton NY, Blacksburg VA, Thousand Oaks CA, Geneva AL, Virginia Beach VA, Santa Fe TX and Sunderland Springs TX. There’s one popular name you might have noticed is missing from that list and it’s really the only exception between the U.S. mass shootings group and the ignored victims of mass trauma, Parkland, FL. Parkland has succeeded where most other mass shooting sites have failed, they have insured that they would not be ignored when it came to aftermath of their trauma.
The community of Parkland came together, took their pain and went to the Florida State House and forced a vote of gun regulations. The vote ultimately did not go their way, but they put Florida officials on notice, confronted them about the lack of inaction on gun regulation, and shined a light on the lack of action behind the customary “thoughts and prayers” that often follow such tragedies of unspeakable sadness. Not daunted, those students most directly affected by the Parkland shooting, connected with other young people living in communities that have experienced equally traumatic realities due to gun violence, and they created the March For Our Lives campaign, which rallied children and adults alike, around issues of gun violence and gun regulation.
On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, visited El Paso and announced that, just as he had in the wake of the Sunderland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he would be conducting round table conversations in the city. I wrote about the results of those round table discussions that Governor Abbott had just about a year ago (Back To School... And Guns), but needless to say, the state’s answer to 2018’s mass shootings seemed to be quite different than the desires heard from the victims and their respective communities.
After Las Vegas we heard about banning “bump stocks”, nothing happened. After Sandy Hook, we heard about stronger and more comprehensive background checks, nothing happened. After Santa Fe, we heard about “red flag policies’ that would help identify potential mass shooters before they struck, and…nothing happened.
While inaction following mass shootings is not a new phenomenon in the U.S. there’s something almost sinister about what happens in Texas. If you look at the list above, with four, Texas has the most mass shootings of any state, and this list does not include one of the first mass shootings to capture the nation, the University of Texas Tower sniper shooting in 1966, which would put it at five. So, while Texas is at the top of the mass shootings list, it ranks near the bottom when it comes to voter participation and voter education. It is here, where the soul of each community, already wrecked by mass trauma, is cut to pieces.
First they have bodies and lives removed from their communities and then, due to the almost systematic failure to prioritize civic engagement, they have their voice and agency taken away as the state legislature uses these tragedies to enact policies that look nothing like what these communities have asked for or need, but satisfies the political power’s desire for gun freedom.
Unlike the community of Parkland, which resides in the state that rivals Texas when it comes to second amendment protection, the city of El Paso does not have the advantage of knowing how to effectively demand change of the status quo, which means the status quo will likely remain. The next chapter in El Paso’s story is being written at this very moment. In the next coming weeks and months, we’ll find out - whether this community will suffer the combined trauma of mass shooting and mass legislative negligence, as so many have before it. Or will it follow the lead of Parkland, FL and demand that the end of its status quo as a community will be the end of the state’s status quo? The heart has already been attacked, but what of the soul?
Cornell Woolridge is the founder and President of CivicSolve, LLC. He's been an active proponent of increasing access and lowering the barrier to civic engagement for even longer with his increasing involvement in numerous political campaigns, as well as down right boots on the ground protesting. He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his Wife Candace and their dog Jack; where he is continuing to expand CivicSolve's future projects and provide his own personal insight along the way.