A tweet from Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in October 2018
A tweet from Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in October 2018 shows him calling for more gun purchases by Texans. Credit: Screengrab from Twitter / @GregAbbott_TX
Susan Campbell
SUSAN CAMPBELL

Thoughts and prayers don’t heal a bullet wound. We should know this already because we’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work.

Flags lowered to half-mast won’t do it, and neither will pins or ribbons. Again, we’ve tried all that, and when we use those go-to remedies, those empty and meaningless responses to gun violence, what we get is a few days’ respite, some handwringing, maybe a worship service or two, the occasional but rare politician crying out for action (though scant few willing to actually commit themselves to gun legislation), and then we get a line of coffins.

Sometimes, we don’t even have time to mourn before another young man goes into what should be the safest space imaginable, and sprays bodies with bullets from a high-powered weapon he has no business owning.

Sometimes – as happened on Tuesday in Texas – those bodies are tiny, too small to carry identification, and so figuring out precisely who we lost takes longer while anguished parents wait in special rooms for the inevitable, horrible news, and the most they can hope for is that their beloved died instantly, with minimal pain.

On Tuesday, an 18-year-old shooter went to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and shot and killed 19 second-, third- and fourth-grade students and two teachers.

More were injured, according to reports.

The details are still emerging, but for people in Connecticut, this was all too, too reminiscent of the bleak days of Sandy Hook, the 2012 school shooting massacre that left 20 children and six teachers and staff members dead.

Remember where you were when you heard the news? Of course you did. It was that kind of pivotal moment. The same goes for the people of Parkland, of Buffalo, of fill-in-the-blank because no one is left unscathed by gun violence.

This 2019 Atlantic Monthly piece said the 1999 school shooting in Columbine changed everything, but here’s what it didn’t change: The majority of our legislators’ inability to unhook themselves from the gun lobby and vote for common sense measures to reduce this carnage.

Last night, Pres. Joe Biden asked for prayers for the families of the dead and said:

“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”

and

“Where in God’s name is our backbone?”

Arming teachers is not the answer. Pumping more guns into the world is not the answer. All the arguments about us needing more “good guys with guns” fall short, given that Texas, despite what Greg Abbott tweeted once when he was running for Texas governor, a position he is seeking to stay in, is lousy with firearms. In his tweet, Abbott said, “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans,” and then he included the blood-gargling @NRA, to give his corporate donors a shout-out. (The NRA loves them some Abbott. That benighted organization has endorsed Abbott for re-election.)

The tweet did not age well, nor did a March 2021 tweet authored by Rep. Tony Gonzales, of Texas’ 23rd district, who represents Uvalde. He wrote: “I voted NO on two gun control measures in the House today. I am a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose gun grabs from the far Left.”

A tweet from Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales, R-23rd District, in March 2021
A tweet from Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales, R-23rd District, in March 2021 announces his votes against two “gun control measures” in the House of Representatives. Credit: Screengrab from Twitter / Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales, R-23rd District

Huh. “Gun grabs.” I wonder how that would sound to the families awaiting news of their children.

On Tuesday afternoon, Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy spoke passionately from the Senate floor, and asked of his colleagues over and over again, “What are we doing?” Not much, if you look at federal gun legislation in the past few years.

On Tuesday night, a visibly shaken Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, age 6, was shot and killed at Sandy Hook, spoke to Anderson Cooper on CNN. When Cooper asked Hockley, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, to describe her son, she paused, and then said, shakily, that she didn’t think she could.

Connecticut’s response to Sandy Hook was to pass some of the most progressive gun laws in the nation. Will Texas? Probably not, so let’s put some federal legislation out there and then remember who votes against it.

From the New York Times, here are some names of the mass shooting victims for just this year so far. Meanwhile, here are some of the speakers scheduled for the blood-gargling NRA’s 151st annual meeting this weekend in Houston: Gov. Abbott and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (who released a statement that shared … well, thoughts and prayers, I suppose). I hope voters are paying attention.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column has been updated to reflect new casualty numbers from Uvalde, Texas.

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Susan Campbell

Author of "Frog Hollow: Stories From an American Neighborhood," "Tempest Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker," and "Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl." Find more at susancampbell.substack.com.

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