Inside the Minds of Americans Who Don’t Think Guns Are a Problem | Gun Violence News

Uvalde and Austin, TX – At the annual meeting of the Nation Rifle Association (NRA), thousands of gun enthusiasts cheered on Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz as he encouraged the crowd to stand up to liberal politicians whose “the real goal is to disarm America.

“The problem isn’t guns, it’s evil,” Cruz said.

Cruz was speaking three days after an 18-year-old man killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in the South Texas town of Uvalde – the deadliest school shooting in a decade in a county where such tragedies have become all too common.

Texas leads the nation in gun-related deaths according to the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 4,100 people died by firearm in 2020 – from suicides, homicides and mass shootings. Over the past five years, a series of gruesome mass shootings have rocked Texas.

Massacre after massacre after massacre, including the shooting at Robb Primary School in Uvalde on Tuesday.

“Texas has seen the face of evil many times. I’ve been on the ground after those tragedies. I was in Dallas in 2016, Sutherland Springs in 2017, Santa Fe in 2018, El Paso and Midland- Odessa in 2019, and now in Uvalde,” Cruz said, listing recent mass shootings in Texas.

Despite the murders, Texas gun laws were only relaxed because of the NRA and politicians such as Cruz.

If Texas is the epicenter of gun violence in the United States, Cruz is perhaps the most prominent standard-bearer of the pro-gun movement – one that represents one side of the polarized gun debate in the United States. United States, a view that gun supporters say is based on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed “.

“Good Guy with a Gun”

Exile Firearms, an arms store in Uvalde, is in an almost treeless industrial area, about 200m from a US border patrol post.

A longtime resident of Uvalde summed up one side of the political debate over guns in America on Friday as he sat in a pickup truck outside the gun store. (The Uvalde school shooter bought his guns from another store in town.)

Any restriction on firearms, including raising the legal age to buy a rifle – Texas allows 18-year-olds to buy AR-15 rifles – would be a slippery slope towards more and more restrictions , said the 24-year-old resident. He asked to remain anonymous, citing his employer’s policy.

“Restricting guns won’t stop that. Methamphetamine is illegal and people are still getting it,” he said.

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the man added, repeating the oft-used NRA trope.

Exile Firearms in Uvalde, Texas.
Exile Firearms in Uvalde, Texas [John Savage/Al Jazeera]

In an online statement the day after the Uvalde shooting, the NRA said it would “pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to securing our schools.”

The NRA has used its money and influence to whip people into a frenzy lest the government take their guns, said Nicole Golden, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, a bipartisan anti-gun violence nonprofit.

The NRA has donated at least $442,000 to Cruz’s political campaigns, according to OpenSecrets, a government transparency group. The gun group has also spent more than $2 million over the past five years lobbying Texas state lawmakers as they eased gun restrictions in the state. .

And the organization has successfully promoted the canard that guns make people safer, Golden said.

A 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that 61% of Republicans in Texas, a Republican-majority state where no Democrats have been elected to statewide office in nearly three decades, believe the United States would be safer if more people carried guns. But public opinion on gun rights and control in Texas is not a monolith, Golden said.

“I’ve been doing this job for 10 years and there are also a lot of gun owners in Texas who don’t buy into the fear-based narrative,” Golden said. “They pride themselves on being responsible gun owners. They understand there is a problem and they are not against sensible gun regulations.

At noon on Saturday, cars and pickup trucks filled the parking lot of The Range at Austin, a shooting range and gun store in Austin, Texas, about 260 km (160 miles) from Uvalde. In a series of interviews, customers have expressed concern about potential gun restrictions following the mass shooting in Uvalde.

“Impossible to regulate madness”

Adrian Ramirez, a 28-year-old Austin resident who works for the shipping company DHL, came to The Range to shoot with some friends.

“I believe in the Second Amendment, and we have to be careful about any new restrictions on guns,” Ramirez said. Asked about the potential increase in the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, Ramirez looked at his friends.

“That’s something we could consider,” he said.

Michael Cargill, 53, owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, said that would be a mistake. “You have 18-year-olds in [Uvalde] who work on farms and need guns for feral hogs and things like that,” Cargill said.

“You have to be crazy to walk into a primary school and kill babies. Changing the laws would have done nothing,” he added. “You can’t regulate madness.”

28-year-old gun enthusiast Adrian Ramirez outside The Range in Austin
Adrian Ramirez, a 28-year-old gun enthusiast, outside The Range at Austin, a shooting range and gun store in Austin, Texas [John Savage/Al Jazeera]

Supporters like Golden say the common denominator of recent mass shootings is easy access to guns and high rates of gun ownership in the Lone Star State — about 46% of Texans live in a household with a gun – disprove the good guy- narrative with a gun.

In the Uvalde shooting, there were up to 19 armed law enforcement personnel in a hallway at Robb Elementary School while the shooter was in a classroom with teachers and students, including some were alive, said Texas department director Steven McCraw. of Public Security, during a press conference on Friday.

“Politics and Theater”

In the wake of recent shootings, Cruz and other Texas Republican politicians continue to push harder for “solutions” that haven’t seemed to work, namely looser gun laws and more fire arms. After signing laws in 2021 that ease gun restrictions, Governor Greg Abbott remained defiant.

“Politicians from federal to local have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens — but we won’t let that happen in Texas,” he said in a press release.

One measure, a so-called license-free carry bill, allows Texans to openly carry handguns without any training or licensing. Adults in Texas could already carry long guns without a license. Another measure allowed guests to store firearms in hotel rooms. Another legalized gun silencer.

“You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights,” Abbott said when he signed the unlicensed carry bill into law in June 2021. “But today , I signed documents that breathed freedom into the Lone Star State.”

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, said Abbott doesn’t believe Republican gun rhetoric, but “he’s intimidated and he knows he has to support it. to be re-elected”. The NRA donated approximately $11,000 to Abbott’s political campaigns.

“The NRA has led Republican voters to believe that guns are critically important to protecting themselves from others and their own government,” Jillson said. As for Cruz, “he always thinks about the political ramifications of what he might say. For him, it’s politics and theatre.

INTERACTIVE shooting at an elementary school in Texas

“Is it time? »

The day after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in this predominantly Latino town of about 16,000, Cruz attended a prayer vigil at the Uvalde County Fairplex, a venue that typically hosts rodeos and bullfights. A scrum of reporters surrounded the senator as he left and bombarded him with questions.

“Is it time to reform gun laws?” asked a reporter.

“It’s easy to get into politics,” Cruz replied. “I understand that’s where the media likes to go.”

The journalist continued to pressure the senator. “Why does this only happen in your country? I just want to understand why you don’t think guns are the problem.

Cruz said, “You know what…this kind of politicization…why are people coming from all over the world to America? Because it is the freest, most prosperous and safest country on the planet.

The senator pointed his finger at the reporter’s chest. “And stop being a propagandist.”

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