You’ve probably heard of the shooting in Allen this weekend—nine dead, seven injured. You may have heard some of the more terrible details. Three members of a family of four Korean Americans were killed during a routine shopping trip, leaving alive only a six-year-old. The Mendoza sisters, in second and fourth grade, were killed too. The shooter was a neo-Nazi with an AR-15-style rifle among eight weapons he had legally purchased. He could have killed many more people had a police officer not been nearby on an unrelated call. We got “lucky,” in other words.

This has become a pretty ordinary event in Texas, which is unconscionable. I read the news all the time, but truthfully, I have a hard time remembering these shootings after a few days have passed unless there are particularly awful details. Following the Allen massacre, as an exercise, I tried to list mass shootings that had taken place in the state since the start of the year. I could only remember the two most recent ones: the shooting in Cleveland on April 28, which claimed five lives, and the shooting in Jasper County on April 23, which injured eleven. But there have been nineteen mass shootings in Texas this year, according to this list, which pulls from various news sources. That means there have now been as many mass shootings in Texas in 2023 as there were students killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde last May. Those nineteen shootings, about four a month, have killed 34 and injured 69 more, many of whom were children. Eighteen have occurred since the Lege convened.

The details of these tragedies are haunting. The Jasper County shooting took place at an after-prom party. Kids who had likely been doing mass shooting drills at school all their lives probably thought they were done with all that. It was a happy story, as far as these shootings go, in that nobody died. But those who were injured, and those who saw it happen, will carry that with them for the rest of their lives. 

In Cleveland a man took an AR-15-style rifle to his neighbor’s house and killed five, including a nine-year-old boy. Other minors were found on the scene unharmed, partly because adults in the house shielded them with their soon-to-be bullet-riddled bodies. Governor Greg Abbott called the dead “illegal immigrants,” communicating in this way  that they didn’t have as much worth as you or I, before sheepishly admitting through a spokesperson that at least one of the dead was in the state legally. He had spoken up without having the facts, just as he did after the shooting in Uvalde.

Of the sixteen other shootings, some were what you could call “evil,” as in the case of the man in Galena Park who shot three teenage girls, one of whom was pregnant, after allegedly sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old. But many of them are just sort of mundane and idiotic. On April 17, two men in Houston got into an argument near a bus stop. Shots were fired. Another person, leaving a restaurant nearby, let loose with his own gun, accidentally hitting a rideshare driver. It was something out of a Coen brothers script: a comedy of errors, except not very funny. The violence is the logical result of the framework of laws our state government has raised up. 

Guns are a “controversial issue,” it is said. Not necessarily among Texans, according to public polling, but certainly in the Texas Legislature. If any event in 2022 screamed out for legislative action, it was the shooting in Uvalde. Kids in two classrooms of nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds were murdered by a teenager with an AR-15-style rifle; at least one child had to be identified by her shoes. Hundreds of police officers descended on the scene after the first shots were fired, but they failed to act for 77 minutes because, it emerged, they were afraid of the shooter’s weaponry, which they thought outclassed their own. State officials first gave wrong information about the response, emphasizing the heroism of the police. “It could have been worse,” Abbott infamously said. Then, after a pro forma mourning period, state leaders preferred not to say much of anything.

There’s plenty the Legislature could do, and much of it—closing the background-check loophole, raising the minimum age for gun purchases—has broad bipartisan support. If Texans had to be 21 to purchase an AR-15, the Uvalde shooter might not have been able to acquire one. A recent University of Texas poll found 76 percent of Texan voters, including two-thirds of Republicans, would support that. But even talking about gun laws carries risks for Republicans, who need the gun vote to win primary elections. So they prefer to keep the conversation from happening at all. When asked about potential restrictions, they prefer to say that gun bills won’t pass or won’t survive the courts, as Abbott has said about the “raise the age” initiative, rather than discuss their merits. These two rationales for inaction are rarely, if ever, given about controversial issues the party favors.

Despite the efforts of the Uvalde parents, the massacre has barely raised its head on the floor of either chamber this year. State senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, has repeatedly spoken about the massacre. Because of that, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made him persona non grata in the Senate, and Gutierrez is unlikely to pass any bills of his own.

After the Allen massacre, there was a tiny crack in the veil of silence that surrounds gun violence at the Legislature. Uvalde parents had been urging the House Select Committee on Community Safety to forward a bill raising the age of purchase to the floor. Chair Ryan Guillen, a Republican from South Texas, initially said he wouldn’t; the bill, he said, would never pass, so he wouldn’t waste the members’ time. But something changed. Just before a deadline that would have killed the bill for good, he let the bill move on. Two Republicans even voted for it. It was a celebratory moment for protesters at the Capitol, but the bill won’t go any further: it died in the House Calendars Committee a day later.

The “response” to Uvalde, such as it is in the Legislature, has taken a few forms. School “hardening” bills, which would train law enforcement and add security equipment to schools, have sailed through the Legislature. But they’re unlikely to do much: Robb Elementary had itself been “hardened.” State leaders have also said they plan to expand access to mental health care. Abbott promised more after the shooting in Allen. But Texas ranks fifty-first among the states and the District of Columbia for mental health-care access, according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. 

The mental health-care crisis in Texas will take a very long time to fix, assuming state leaders are actually serious about it. In the meantime, they’ve taken the perplexing position that a state in the throes of what they describe as a mental health crisis, and a culture in moral decline, should have easy access to military-grade weaponry. Easier access, in fact. Gun bills likely to pass this session aim to further protect gun ownership. One of the rare debates on the proliferation of guns took place regarding a bill offered by Central Texas Republican Carrie Isaac to prohibit requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance—which no one does in Texas.

And that’s it: that’s probably as close the Eighty-eighth Legislature will come to doing something of even token significance about gun violence. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2010, which killed twenty six- and seven-year-olds, pessimists argued that if the U.S. couldn’t be prodded to change its relationship to guns by the massacre of such small children, nothing would change that relationship. Texas has had its own Sandy Hook now. We’ve done no better. But we also can’t go on living like this.

Maybe down the road something will change. But it’s dispiriting to think about how long it might take. Regular legislative sessions happen every other year. Say we continue on with 20 or so mass shootings in Texas every five months, as we have in the first part of this year. This legislative session will end with no real action, a little after the one-year anniversary of Uvalde. It will then be some twenty months before the Eighty-ninth Legislature begins in 2025—or some 80 mass shootings away. Call it 180 mass shootings to the start of the Ninetieth Legislature; 270 to the start of the Ninety-first.