Following this week’s massacre of nineteen children and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom at a Uvalde elementary school, members of Texas’s Republican party offered thoughts, prayers, and absolutely no promise of actionable legislation to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
For frustrated constituents across the state, who have now witnessed the second-deadliest grade school shooting in U.S. history and more than twenty other mass shootings in Texas this year, the sentiments rang hollow.
“In the absence of meaningful change, or even the expectation of change, what are we left with?” Texas Monthly’s Forrest Wilder writes. “A general, society-wide atmosphere of imminent violence that encourages ordinary citizens to buy more weaponry and some of us to use it, a gift to would-be authoritarians and far-right activists. America is already home to more guns than people. We are in an arms race with ourselves, and there’s no end in sight.” You can read his full piece on the lack of solutions proposed by Texas leaders here.
Below, we’ve compiled the responses given by the state’s top officials in the days following the shooting.
Governor Greg Abbott
In his initial statement after the massacre on Tuesday, Abbott called the tragedy incomprehensible. Hours later, while parents in the Uvalde civic center waited to be told whether their children had been killed, Abbott attended a campaign fund-raising event at a private home in East Texas.
In a news conference in Uvalde on Wednesday, Abbott said stricter gun laws are “not a real solution” to mass shootings.
“There are ‘real’ gun laws in Chicago. There are ‘real’ gun laws in New York. There are ‘real’ gun laws in California,” Abbott said. “I hate to say this, but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas. We need to realize that people who think, ‘Well, maybe if we just implement tougher gun laws it’s going to solve it,’ Chicago and L.A. and New York disprove that thesis.” During the same press conference, Abbott said the Uvalde shooting “could have been worse.”
Abbott has used Uvalde as an opportunity to again push mental health resources as the key to preventing future shootings, despite having cut $211 million from Texas’s Health and Human Services department in April to funnel into the state’s ongoing border crackdown.
On Thursday, Abbott announced he would no longer make a scheduled in-person appearance at this weekend’s NRA convention in Houston but will still deliver pretaped remarks.
In his response to the tragedy, Abbott has cemented himself as what the Washington Post calls “one of the most pro-gun politicians in America.” He has offered no specific plans to address gun violence in Texas’s next legislative session, nor given any indication that he plans to reinvest in mental health services.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick
On Friday, Patrick confirmed that he will no longer attend the annual NRA meeting in Houston. He wouldn’t want his appearance to “bring any additional pain or grief to the families suffering in Uvalde,” he said.
During a Fox News appearance on Tuesday, Patrick echoed a concern, raised by Senator Ted Cruz, with the doors of Robb Elementary School. “We have to harden these targets so that no one can get in, ever, except through one entrance. Maybe that would help. Maybe that would stop someone,” Patrick said on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Attorney General Ken Paxton
Paxton is a strong backer of pro-gun legislation and has used his position to advocate for gun rights, including in a nonbinding opinion that pushed back on the closure of nonessential businesses during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it wrongly restricted gun sales.
In an appearance on conservative cable channel Newsmax on Wednesday, Paxton scoffed at the notion of introducing stricter gun laws. “I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens, because it’s not going to be the last time,” he said.
Paxon also told the National Desk that stricter gun laws would have done nothing to prevent Uvalde because the shooter “was willing to kill people. That’s a violation of law. He didn’t care about that.”
U.S. senator John Cornyn
Cornyn visited Uvalde the day after the shooting to donate blood and meet with local leaders. He then tweeted, “I’m not interested in a political statement, I’m interested in what we can do to make the tragic events that occurred less likely in the future.”
Following previous mass shootings, Texas’s senior senator has worked with Democrats to push minor gun-safety measures, and is reportedly working to do the same after Uvalde. On Thursday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell told CNN that he instructed Cornyn to reach out to Democratic senators and explore a bipartisan legislative response to this week’s shooting.
Cornyn has historically voted with Republicans against gun control measures introduced by Democrats.
U.S. senator Ted Cruz
In response to the Uvalde massacre, Cruz told a group of reporters a few hours after the shooting that stricter gun laws are “not effective” and don’t prevent crime. The comment kicked off a string of interviews in which Cruz echoed his initial statement and repeatedly championed the idea that schools should have a single door guarded by armed police or security.
Cruz appeared on Fox News to talk about targeting “felons and fugitives” who try to illegally buy firearms, saying “we need to stop the bad guys.” He will attend this weekend’s annual NRA meeting.
U.S. representative Tony Gonzales
Gonzales has represented the Twenty-third Congressional District, which includes Uvalde, since 2021. He opposes gun control measures and has a history of voting against efforts to strengthen background checks.
In the immediate aftermath of this week’s shooting, Gonzales made a public call for mental health professionals to contact his office to help the community of Uvalde. He also tweeted out a Bible verse.
Later in the week, Gonzales appeared on Fox News to say that parents have a right to be angry after this week’s events, and said, “. . . we are tired of the inaction. We are tired of the politics that come in and swoop in and try to swing this one way or another. This is about ‘How do we solve this problem going forward?’ The minute that gunman entered the school, deaths were destined to occur.”