UVALDE, Texas — In the wake of a mass shooting on Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas does not need tougher gun laws.
Abbott said the State must instead focus on mental health care issues to help end mass shootings in Texas.
“There are ‘real’ gun laws in Chicago. There are ‘real’ gun laws in New York. There are ‘real’ gun laws in California,” Abbott said at a press conference at Uvalde High School on Wednesday. “I hate to say this, but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas. We need to realize that people who think, ‘Well, maybe if we just implement tougher gun laws it’s going to solve it.’ Chicago and LA and New York disprove that thesis. If you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution.”
Nineteen children and two adults were killed on Tuesday when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and opened fire. Before entering the school, the gunman shot his grandmother at her home, which also happens to be the gunman's registered address.
After Gov. Abbott finished his opening remarks, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke walked up to the stage and started shouting about gun laws and demanding change.
“You said this was not predictable, but this is totally predictable when you choose not to do anything,” O’Rourke said, gesturing at Abbott. “You are doing nothing; you are offering us nothing.”
That's when politicians and other lawmakers started shouting back at O'Rourke. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin called him a "sick son of a b----."
After some back and forth, O'Rourke was escorted out of the press conference. Upon being escorted from the premises, O'Rourke addressed the media.
"He's refused to support a ban on AR-15s and AK-47s," O'Rourke repeatedly told the press. "Why are we letting this happen in our country? Why are we letting this happen in this state? Year after year, we refuse to do something. I will do something... We could've stopped this if we stood up after Sante Fe and El Paso. We will stop the next one."
O'Rourke said the shooter should not have been able to buy an AR-15.
"You want a solution? Stop selling AR-15s in the State of Texas. You want a solution? Have universal background checks. We don't have them," O'Rourke said. "You want a solution? Red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders, which stop a shooting before it happens. You want a solution? Safe storage laws. Those are four solutions that have been brought up by the people of Texas. Each one of those has broad bipartisan support."
O'Rourke went on to highlight the NRA convention Abbott is scheduled to speak at in Houston this weekend, saying that it is "absolutely wrong" of the governor to "brag about how easy he has made it to purchase guns in the state."
"It is insane that we allow an 18-year-old to go in and buy an AR-15. What the h--- did we think he was going to do with that?" O'Rourke questioned.
House Bill 1927, also known as the “permitless carry” law, allows Texans 21 and older to openly carry handguns without a license or training if they are not legally prevented from doing so by state or federal law.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Abbott and other leaders responded to questions about whether the State has done enough following other mass shootings in Texas.
“To be clear, we all understand our work is not done,” Abbott said. “We will continue to discuss with legislators about all the potential avenues and pathways that we can take to make sure that schools will be even safer going forward.”
Abbott said State leaders had a discussion with local community leaders and elected officials, including the mayor of Uvalde.
"The question was: What is the problem here?" Abbott said. "And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said, we have a problem with mental health illness in this community. And then they elaborated on the magnitude of the mental health challenges that they're facing in the community and the need for more mental health support in this region. I want to make sure everybody understands the mental health services that are available at this time, with me making one clarifying point in advance, that I’m going to re-double down in the aftermath."
The governor initially said there was “no known mental health history of the gunman” and no “meaningful forewarning of this crime.”
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