Lax Texas Gun Laws Enabled Sutherland Massacre
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
A gunman opened fire Sunday at a small Baptist church in the tiny town of Sutherland, Texas, killing at least 26 people and wounding close to 30 more.
The mass shooting taking place just a month after the deadly Las Vegas shooting, where 58 were killed and 500 more injured, joining a long list of mass shootings in the United States each year. According to the Gun Violence Archive database, the Sutherland shooting marks the 307th mass shooting so far in 2017. (The researchers define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are killed or injured.)
Following the shooting, messages of support and heartbreak, including the predictable “thoughts and prayers” mantra, flooded social media. One organization, however, has remained silent: the National Rifle Association. The gun group’s silence is deafening and revealing, particularly given that Texas’ lax gun control regulations likely aided the gunman in obtaining his firearms.
A database by Slate of gun regulations state-by-state gives Texas an “F” rating. Texas currently has no laws requiring background checks for private sales, no regulating of firearm registration and no ban on the purchase of assault weapons. The state does not have any restrictions on magazine capacity, nor does it have any restrictions on firearm ownership for the mentally ill. Texas also allows open carry with a permit and concealed carry on college campuses.
Texas’ relaxed gun control laws are the result of a majority-Republican legislature that shares views with the NRA on guns and gun regulation. Donations from the powerful gun lobby to these Republicans suggest that opposition to any type of gun control came with persistent nudges and bankrolling from the NRA itself.
In total, the NRA has given a combined $73,900 in campaign contributions to members of the Texas state delegation, with an overwhelming majority of the money going to Republican lawmakers. According to Texas Monthly in 2013, 27 out of 33 members of the Texas congressional delegation have received a grade of an A- or higher from the NRA. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz received an A+ from the NRA and has taken about $9,900 in campaign contributions from the organization.
Despite the NRA’s claim that more guns equals safer communities, the statistics of gun violence in the U.S. paint a different picture. The U.S. stands out starkly from other developed countries when it comes to violence; according to the United Nations, the U.S. has 29.7 firearm deaths per 1 million people, the highest rate of any developed country. And within the U.S., the number of gun deaths varies state to state, largely due to the strength or weakness of gun control in each state.
A database from Mother Jones shows a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths, revealing that states with higher rates of gun ownership see far more gun deaths than states with stricter gun regulations. Texas, which has a gun ownership rate of 35.7 percent higher than the national average of 29.1 percent, has over 3,200 gun deaths per year.
It should be obvious by now that America has a serious, dangerous gun violence problem that cannot be solved by the NRA’s solution of a “good guy with a gun.” While mass shootings briefly bring the topic of gun violence into the public discourse, these events do not make up the majority of gun deaths in the U.S. An analysis from FiveThirtyEight shows that nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are caused by suicides, not mass shootings.
One common denominator among mass shootings is the immense power of the NRA. Despite the persistent calls for tighter gun control laws after each horrific incident, Congress, pressured by the NRA and its enormous lobby, fails each and every time to pass meaningful gun legislation.