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Texas Republicans Move to Weaken Gun Laws After 8 People Were Mowed Down at a Mall

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed last year at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Another eight people were viciously shot at a mall last weekend. That does not include any of the other 200-some mass shootings across the country just this year—many of them in Texas. And in the context of all this, Texas Republicans are barely allowing even moderate gun reforms explicitly supported by the families of the victims in Uvalde to pass—and now they are trying to actively weaken gun laws even more.

Texas’s Community Safety House Committee has advanced House Bill 2960, which rolls back existing law directing the postage of “no firearms allowed” notices on properties, and consequently would relax prosecution of those found violating such notices. The committee passed the bill 7-3, and the bill has been placed on the general calendar to be voted on by the entire state House.

To be clear, this is the same committee that did not advance a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21 until concerned mothers and families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting flooded the Capitol Monday, demanding that lawmakers push it forward. Even still, five Republicans voted against advancing it; the bill moved forward at a vote of 8-5.

What cannot be understated is the sheer culpability of these conservatives. The shootings at Uvalde and the Allen mall are just drops in Texas’s bloody bucket. In 2018, a 17-year-old student killed 10 people and injured 13 more at Santa Fe High School. In 2019, two mass shootings took place in rapid succession—one by a white supremacist at an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 people and injuring another 23; another killed seven people and injured 22, including a state trooper and two police officers, in Midland and Odessa.

These and hundreds of other victims have revealed, over and over again, how sneeringly unconcerned this party is with perhaps, stopping the bodies from piling up. It’s almost appalling, given how both Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee both lost individuals they knew personally in recent mass shootings in their state; for some reason, power structures and dollar signs still somehow enrapture Republican politicians from imagining that a stray bullet may just hit close to their home too.

Meanwhile, people in communities like Uvalde have been brought to fend for themselves as statewide Republicans don’t even pretend to advocate for them or the spirits of the loved ones they’ve lost until the national spotlight is on them, as it was on Monday. Even then, Republicans could not unanimously advance a bill that simply decrees that teenagers ought not be able to buy AR-15s.

In the meantime, they’re jumping on board to repeal even the most minute and niche gun safety policies, like the simple act of posting “no firearms allowed” signs.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott made his first public address Monday since his state was struck by double tragedies—and he spent the entire time demonizing migrants.

A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. The shooter is reported to have held extremist and white nationalist beliefs. The next day, an SUV driver slammed into a crowd outside a migrant shelter in the border city of Brownsville, killing eight people and injuring at least 10 others.

During a press conference at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Abbott announced he was deploying a new border control unit to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, ahead of when Title 42 ends later this week. Title 42 is a federal immigration policy employed by the Trump administration at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to expel migrants without having to consider them for asylum. The Biden administration has kept the policy going.

“The cartels are working in collaboration with President [Joe] Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegal cross-border,” Abbott said. “We are being overrun by our own federal government. Texas is being undermined by our own federal government in our efforts to secure our border.”

Normal stuff for a governor to say as his state still reels from dual tragedies.

Abbot went on to propose penalties such as potential felony offenses for anyone who crosses the border without papers.

His remarks come a week after another time Abbott demonized migrants. On April 28, a man in Texas shot dead five of his neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, after one of them asked him to stop firing shots in his yard so the family’s baby could sleep. Abbott claimed in a press release that the shooter was “in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants.”

The governor came under fire for his statement, which is still up on his website, with critics accusing him of using the tragedy to fearmonger instead of enacting meaningful change.

“There is no limit to the depravity of Greg Abbott and his Texas Republican cronies,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “To use a mass shooting, in which five innocent souls were slaughtered execution-style … to fearmonger and lie about migrants and the victims’ immigration status.… This type of sick behavior is truly beyond the pale.”

After the most recent tragedies, Abbott similarly has resisted calls for change. He told Fox News Sunday that rather than pass more gun control laws, he would focus instead on mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat for gun violence.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out Republicans’ big plan for 2024: Win everywhere possible.

Republicans are gearing up for the 2024 elections, and they only need to flip two seats to take control of the Senate. McConnell told CNN Monday that they have a few key states they’re focusing on, but really, they just want to win.

“We don’t have an ideological litmus test,” McConnell told reporter Manu Raju. “We want to win in November.”

“We’ll be involved in any primary where that seems to be necessary to get a high-quality candidate, and we’ll be involved in every general election where we have a legitimate shot of winning—regardless of the philosophy of the nominee.”

Republicans have allowed pretty much any and everyone into their party, including election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and just plain liars. But previously, those people had to earn their way into the party mainstream. McConnell has made it clear now that as long as you say you’re Republican, you’ll be welcomed.

McConnell said the GOP would focus primarily on flipping seats in Ohio, where Sherrod Brown is running for reelection, Montana (Jon Tester), West Virginia (Joe Manchin, who has been acting like a Republican anyway), and Pennsylvania (Bob Casey). The minority leader said he’s not confident his party can retake the Senate, but he plans to work hard to try.

Part of that will be backing former President Donald Trump should he secure the Republican nomination again in 2024. McConnell did not explicitly say whether he would support Trump, instead saying he would back whoever the GOP nominates. But he does think that having Trump as a nominee could help Republicans win Senate battles too.

McConnell did not yet have a clear plan for Arizona, where independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema has not yet announced if she will run for reelection. Failed gubernatorial candidate and election-denier Kari Lake, who won Trump’s endorsement, has hinted she will run for Senate on the Republican ticket. McConnell refused to disavow Lake and said that GOP leadership would probably wait to see who wins the GOP primary in Arizona before getting involved.

Even if Lake wins the nomination, “what I care about in November is winning and having an ‘R’ by your name,” McConnell said.

McConnell didn’t seem too concerned with Republicans’ actual policy proposals during the interview. And no matter who runs, Republicans will have a hard battle ahead. A recent Fox News poll found that most voters across the country want increased gun control and abortion rights—two things on which the GOP seems absolutely unwilling to budge. If the Republican Party fails to switch up its policies on these issues, then it may ultimately not matter who its candidates are.

It took masses of concerned mothers and families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting to convince just two Republicans to get the stones to support incredibly modest public safety regulations.

On Monday, large groups of protesters flooded the Texas state Capitol as one Republican committee chair threatened to kill a proposed bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21. The bill, endorsed by families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting, was introduced in February but didn’t even get a wink of hearing time until April.

Cheers erupted in the chamber on Monday as the committee advanced the bill.

BREAKING: The Texas House Select Committee on Community Safety has passed 8-5 the bill to raise to 21 the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. #Uvalde families cry and clap in celebration. #txlrge pic.twitter.com/r4pc9gQc1t

— Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (@SergioMarBel) May 8, 2023

Monday was the final day the bill could advance. Originally, the committee chair, Ryan Guillen (a former Democrat), said he was not interested in advancing the bill. In face of the mass protests, he seemed to waver, allowing the bill to go to a vote.

And upon voting, two Republicans swung to vote with the Democrats, advancing the bill on an 8–5 vote.

The moment showcases the power of people to actually demand their government act on the wave of gun violence sweeping the nation, and yet still the appalling fecklessness of Republicans to have forced such protests at all. After Uvalde, Republicans have done nothing. After another mass shooting, they had to be convinced, not empowered, by the people to even advance a bill out of committee.

And even then, five Republicans (a majority of Republicans on the committee) still found it within themselves to look at the families of those who have lost their children to gun violence, and still vote the incredibly modest gun reform down.

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt doubled down Monday on his decision to veto funding for PBS, accusing the network of indoctrinating children.

Stitt vetoed a bill two weeks ago approving funding for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which broadcasts PBS and PBS Kids throughout the state. OETA receives both private and public funding. It offers shows including Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Antiques Roadshow, and PBS Newshour.

When asked Monday on Fox Business to explain his decision to veto OETA funding, Stitt demanded, “Why are we using taxpayer dollars to overly sexualize or indoctrinate children with this type of programming?”

“Why are we using taxpayer dollars to overly sexualize or indoctrinate children?” — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on vetoing funding for PBS pic.twitter.com/iKOrxfVkq1

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 8, 2023

A gubernatorial spokeswoman provided “evidence” of such sexualization and indoctrination to Tulsa World the day after Stitt issued the veto, which was basically just a list of LGBTQ content. She said OETA has aired Pride Month programs in recent years, and two children’s cartoons have included lesbian characters in some episodes. PBS Newshour also ran a segment in which an Indiana couple discussed how much gender-affirming care had helped their daughter.

Unless two-thirds of the state legislature votes to override Stitt’s veto, OETA will shut down in about a year—which could have devastating effects for more rural parts of Oklahoma, warned Friends of OETA board member Ken Busby.

Busby told Tulsa World that OETA is crucial to the state’s emergency alert system, especially for people in rural areas who don’t have cable television. “Our broadcast towers are how we inform a lot of rural Oklahoma about disasters like tornadoes and thunderstorms,” he said.

Republicans have been waging war on anything they deem “woke,” which usually means anything that encourages freedom of thought. A major argument has been that they are trying to protect children. But as moves such as Stitt’s veto show, a lot of their efforts to combat “wokeness” will actually have a detrimental effect on children’s well-being.

A Democrat-turned-Republican Texas legislator is obstructing incredibly modest gun reform in the wake of yet another mass shooting in his state.

Families of victims of the Uvalde mass school shooting have been rallying for months behind an array of gun safety bills, including one to raise the minimum age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill was filed back in February but was not given a hearing until April 19. Even then, families had to wait more than 12 hours just to testify on the bill.

Protestors are forming a tunnel on the backstairs to the Texas House, calling on the GOP-led chamber to raise the age to buy AR-style rifles.

Uvalde families are pressing for a vote on the policy, which is languishing in a House committee led by @RyanGuillen #txlege pic.twitter.com/YvpXOELKEX

— Allie Morris 🌟 (@MorrisReports) May 8, 2023

Monday—in the wake of a horrific mass shooting that left nine people, including the shooter, dead—is the final day the bill could have advanced.

And on Monday, Ryan Guillen—the chair of the Community Safety House committee where the bill is stalled—put a nail in the coffin: He does not want to bring up the bill for a vote.

It “doesn’t have the support in the legislature,” the Republican said, simply, ignoring the protesters demanding gun control inside the Capitol.

Who is to say how many more coffins will be nailed by the cowardice of Guillen and the rest of his Republican colleagues?

“To honor our children, you’d put this up for a vote.… It’s time for you to grow some balls and do your fucking job,” one family member said last week, addressing Guillen.

NOW: Hundreds of gun safety advocates were at the Texas Capitol demanding lawmakers to hold a committee fu vote on HB2744, a measure to raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle.

The parents of the Uvalde victims are here too. #txlege pic.twitter.com/GtlMk0rnI8

— Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (@SergioMarBel) May 8, 2023

In face of the growing protests, Guillen then announced that the committee is taking another look at voting on the bill. “We’re considering it,” he said.

Guillen was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 2002 and, after nearly two decades, switched to the Republican Party in November 2021. The lawmaker is also a friend to national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Texas Representative Henry Cuellar.

Guillen shares much of his state district with Cuellar, an anti-choice, A-rated NRA conservative blessed by Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn. The conservative Texas duo share both a tendency for political fence-riding and an apparent kindred camaraderie, perhaps in relating to each other’s spinelessness. Just last week, Cuellar boasted about spending time with a couple of his “friends” while visiting the Texas state legislature, including one Ryan Guillen.

“Coming back always brings so many memories of bipartisanship,” Cuellar wrote.

The mirroring between Cuellar and Guillen is almost beautiful in its patheticness. Last year, in the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Cuellar voted against raising the minimum age to access semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21—just as Guillen blocked similar legislation Monday. The bill Cuellar voted against would have also created penalties for gun trafficking, required manufacturers to include serial numbers, and mandated safe storage of weapons away from children, among other very moderate provisions.

The “bipartisan” order that Cuellar so warmly recalls is indeed an influential one. It is one in which Texas Republicans and conservative Democrats put on a showcase of the most cynical, despicable, shamelessly wretched ways of leading one’s life.

This post has been updated.

Ever since Texas passed a law two years ago allowing people to carry a gun without a permit, random acts of gun violence have increased dramatically—including over the weekend when a shooter attacked a crowded mall.

A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. It was the deadliest attack in Texas since the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde last spring.

There have now been 202 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, five of which occurred after the Texas shooting. The Texas mall attack was the second-deadliest mass shooting of 2023, after the one in Monterey Park, California. But Texas is in its own category when it comes to mass shootings, thanks to the state’s lax gun laws.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law in 2021 that allows anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a license or training. A study found that the number of mass shootings increased by 62.5 percent in the year after the law was implemented

From June 13, 2020, to June 13, 2021, when Abbott signed the permitless carry law, Texas had 40 mass shootings. In that same time period from 2021 to 2022, the number of mass shootings rose to 65,” state news outlet Reform Austin reported in September 2022.

In the one-year period before the bill was signed, 187 people were killed or injured in mass shootings in Texas, Reform Austin said. In the one-year period after the law was implemented, that number doubled to 375 people.

Many state authorities also say “they have seen an increase in spur-of-the-moment gunfire” since the law went into effect, The New York Times reported.

Texas was already struggling with gun violence, according to a study published in April by Colin Woodard, the head of Salve Regina University’s Nationhood Lab, which studies American democracy and authoritarian threats to it. The Deep South region, which includes a large swathe of Texas, “is the most deadly of the large regions,” Woodard wrote in Politico.

From 2010 to 2020, the Deep South had the highest rate of gun homicides of all U.S. regions. Over that same time period, the Deep South also had the highest rate of overall gun deaths (homicides and suicides). Woodard attributed these high rates in part to the Southern culture of “honor tradition”—meaning that people feel they need to respond personally to perceived slights or insults, or else it diminishes their dignity.

Infuriatingly, Abbott said Sunday that he would not attempt to reform gun laws in his state, even in the wake of the shooting. When a Fox News host showed him a recent poll that found the overwhelming majority of people favor increased gun control, Abbott said he would focus instead on the “root cause” of gun violence: mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat.

“I have to frame it in a way that’s not gonna piss off all his voters.”

It is 2023, and while Ron DeSantis still hasn’t announced his run for president, he’s apparently been formally preparing for at least five years.

Streams of leaked footage from 2018 show the Florida governor sparring debate questions and talking strategy. In footage obtained by ABC, DeSantis mulls how to win over Trump voters, whether the NRA is “quite the boogeyman the Democrats think it is,” whether the NRA even donated to him at all, and how he can remind himself to try being “likable” instead of unsettlingly aggressive.

EXCLUSIVE: Don’t “piss off his voters.” Footage of Ron DeSantis’ 2018 debate prep sessions reveal his thoughts on dealing with Donald Trump. https://t.co/ibDeDWaKKQ pic.twitter.com/aZSXmdumBo

— ABC News (@ABC) May 7, 2023

In other footage, Representative Matt Gaetz coaches DeSantis and tries to tell him that he comes in “too hot” and prep him for how to respond to attacks from his opponent.

In 2018 debate prep, recordings obtained exclusively by @ABC News show Ron DeSantis candidly discussing how to respond to accusations that he’d made a racist comment.

At one point, then-adviser Rep. Matt Gaetz told DeSantis he was coming in “too hot.” https://t.co/NO0MZulV5z pic.twitter.com/L2Q8pCsQKh

— ABC News (@ABC) May 7, 2023

DeSantis, who was preparing for the 2018 gubernatorial race at the time, was accused of making a racist comment by asking voters not to “monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda” in voting for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is Black. DeSantis was also criticized for close association with David Horowitz, who, among other things, has complained about Black people not feeling “gratitude” for white people’s “sacrifices” in ending slavery. And reports claimed that DeSantis was an administrator for a racist Facebook page.

“It deserves to be hot!” DeSantis replies in exasperation. “I mean, I’m sorry.”

“Kavanaugh showed that when you say ‘fuck this’ …” DeSantis suggested, referring to Brett Kavanuagh’s success in whining and yelling enough about the numerous allegations of sexual assault against him that he was still able to weather the storm and become one of nine jurists in one of the most powerful institutions in America.

Not necessarily a great role model for someone trying to prove themselves as definitively innocent or trustworthy.

DeSantis is said to be undergoing more debate prep and considering skipping the step of launching an exploratory committee, instead diving right into the race sometime next month. The final touches of the longtime coming presidential campaign follow a remarkably hostile and incendiary state legislative session, in which the Florida governor has attacked millions of LGBTQ people, students, teachers, women, immigrants, people fearful of gun violence, Disney lovers, and fans of Dwyane Wade.

There’s a soullessness in our society that must be excised.

You may have thought Fox might turn things down on the racism dial after it had to pay $787.5 million in a settlement with Dominion Voting Systems to avoid further inquiry into its corrupt inner workings. But in the wake of the brutal murder of a Black, homeless man in New York this week, it’s continued right on course.

Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely by putting him in a choke hold for 15 minutes. Then, he got up and walked away. He has still not been charged with a crime.

And yet, on a man killing a desperate and hungry homeless person, Fox anchors laugh:

Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany mocks Black people protesting the killing of Jordan Neely: “Well at least they have rhythm.”

Her co-hosts then laugh. pic.twitter.com/BuSoj3t0vw

— Kat Abu (@abughazalehkat) May 5, 2023

They welcome jeering.

someone in the Hannity studio audience cheers for the guy who killed Jordan Neely pic.twitter.com/g8zbXo5vRC

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 5, 2023

And they suggest, in fact, it’s actually not that “people kill people.” Jesse Watters said that had Neely been “institutionalized” or “incarcerated,” he wouldn’t be dead. No, Jesse. Had he not been murdered in broad daylight, he wouldn’t be dead.

“Maybe if the left had not defunded and demoralized the police, he wouldn’t be dead,” Watters continued, referring to a city in which police officers are getting a raise while other agencies are collectively taking $1 billion in annual cuts.

“They care about blaming somebody else,” Watters finished, blaming “the left” for an act of cold-blooded murder done by an individual who felt empowered enough in this society to choke-hold someone for 15 minutes.

There’s a tendency to ascribe the barbaric, almost libidinal hatred peddled by Fox to profit. That a formula that pulls out the worst instincts among us metastasizes them and leaves those instincts wanting more is a formula destined for dollars. And surely, that equation has been intrinsic to the construction and rise of Fox and right-wing media more broadly.

Yet there also comes a point where the numbers are too large, the bank accounts are too stuffed, to blame such viciousness on the lust for profit alone.

Sure, it’s not revelatory that people like Watters or Tucker Carlson or any other member of Fox’s roster are, in fact, racist. But there’s a deeper sickness, a gaping hole where once there may have been at least a sliver of humanity. They all have their own origin stories, their own paths of how they became the figureheads of an ideology that not only tolerates but encourages, salivates at, the murder of the worst-off among us. How they developed a mindset that cannot fathom the pain of another human being who was first brought to live on the streets, then strangled and killed for yearning for a better existence.

It’s difficult to conceptualize how someone can begin to think like this, be brought to the eye of a storm in which all they see is the stability of their claims, while knowing none of the violence that surrounds it. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, in the aftermath of the January 6 attacks on the Capitol, put forth one notion that at least offers a lens toward seeing these people even now as modes of potential:

The myth of American exceptionalism and the lie of white supremacy don’t just hurt Americans of color.

They box white Americans into a false identity of superiority, keeping them from fulfilling their potential and existing as humans.

That’s what the extremists are defending.

— Jamaal Bowman Ed.D. (@JamaalBowmanNY) January 7, 2021

What transpired on that New York City subway line is a cruelty so inexplicable it may be tempting to search for some justification for why it happened. But there is none. Only this sickness, these false identities of superiority, can lead someone to justify, joke about, jeer at—and indeed, commit—something so definitively inexplicable, so patently opposed to humanity.

Determining whether someone—even the likes of Carlson or Watters—is “too far gone” is a fool’s errand; but if this sickness is to be excised from our society, it at least begins by preventing its spread any further.

On October 7, 2016, the infamous Access Hollywood tape was revealed, showing Trump, who is now on trial for rape, talking about how he approaches women.

“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” he said on tape.

Now, footage from Trump’s deposition during his rape and defamation trial brought by E. Jean Carroll shows the twice-impeached criminally indicted former president doubling down on the idea.

“Historically, that’s true with stars,” Trump said when asked about his past comments. “If you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”

“Do you consider yourself to be a star?” the interviewer asked.

“I think you could say that, yeah,” Trump mused.

He consistently shows *everyone* exactly who he is pic.twitter.com/dfURw6daAt

— Sam Sanders (@samsanders) May 5, 2023

May as well spell it out: Trump—while standing trial for rape—says that it is “largely true” that stars (like himself) can get away with sexually assaulting women.

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