Tragedy struck Texas one week ago. It’s not the first time we’ve put together a newspaper on a Saturday, only to shift plans after reports of a mass shooter.
After the attack in El Paso, statements filled with condolences were issued. Following that, the talking heads on TV dove into the typical debates: what constitutes an assault weapon, if video games are to blame and other low-hanging-fruit ideas masquerading as solutions.
But that changed after the shooting in Odessa last weekend. With those comments still fresh on the minds of Texans less than a month after another mass shooting in El Paso, the typical talking points didn’t hold much weight. Political leaders needed to show action.
Since that has failed to happen after the dozens of previous mass shootings — two in 28 days didn’t even rise to the level of urgency to merit calling a special session in Texas — those outside of the halls of power are stepping forward to institute change. Looking at the immediate “solutions” Lone Star State leaders have offered, it’s clear why leadership from the private sector is the best course for changing a culture of violence.
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told the Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety to “evaluate options for strengthening enforcement measures for current laws that prevent the transfer of firearms to felons and other persons prohibited by current law from possessing firearms,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Neither of the alleged recent Texas mass shooters were felons, and the suspect in the Midland shooting was prevented from purchasing a gun after being flagged as mentally unfit, only to weaponize himself through a legal loophole, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s eight-step plan for addressing mass shooters focuses largely on education efforts for law enforcement and residents and to improve notification of potential threats to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network. Adding paperwork to already burdened law enforcement officials isn’t a practical solution.
The governor also said he would like to see expedited executions for mass shooters. Since many mass shooters end up taking their own lives or ensuring their act ends with suicide by cop, that sounds more like lip service. The Odessa shooter was shot and killed by police the same day as the shooting.
Where the real solutions are emerging are not from elected leaders, but from companies electing to lead. When politicians don’t act, the free market can step in.
Walmart announced last week it will no longer sell ammunition for military-style weapons and not allow customers to open carry guns in its stores. Walgreens, CVS and Kroger followed the news with announcements they would also prohibit open carrying of weapons.
“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” said Doug McMillion, president and CEO of Walmart, in a letter to employees.
Residents are free to not shop at these stores if they disagree with their policies — boycotts already have been called over the liberal policies of Disney and Target and the conservative policies of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby. The owners of companies are free to make decisions about what kinds of companies they want to be, and being anti-mass shooting is not the same as being anti-gun.
Texas politicians are in a tricky spot, governing what has long been the “gun rights” state. They likely aren’t excited to change the state’s reputation and their political positions on a dime — not to mention putting their jobs and campaign donations in peril.
Politicians are free to draw their lines in the sand on gun laws, but that doesn’t mean the political landscape can’t shift around them. It already is.