From El Paso to Odessa to Houston, the ramifications of gun violence have been felt all throughout Texas. Yet politicians have been hesitant to touch the issue. Even as incidents of gun violence have increased throughout the nation, the state legislature has continued to loosen gun regulations, increasing the number of areas where guns can be carried and who can carry them.
As gun laws have become more forgiving, the Texas Tribune notes that 50% of Texans want stricter gun laws, yet the Texas legislature has failed to de-escalate or respond with legislation that would strengthen existing gun control measures. It’s difficult to digest that in a state where an average of 3,139 people are killed each year with a gun and where half the population calls for more stringent gun laws, the state legislature remains passive. This begs the question: Why?
One reason is that other policy issues take precedence. For instance, pandemic response remains among the top of voter concerns for Election Day. Even before COVID-19, healthcare, taxes and social security remained at the top of most policy agendas and, though important, moved gun reform away from the public eye, even as gun violence ran rampant.
Unfortunately, policy platforms surrounding gun reforms are hardly the crowning jewel of a candidate’s campaign — unless in the wake of tragedy. For instance, Beto O’Rourke was able to use the Odessa, Texas, movie theater shooting as an opportunity to build on the gun reform platform he cultivated in the wake of the El Paso shootings by proposing a ban on assault-style weapons. It should not take tragedy to force politicians’ hands at gun reform. Instead, there needs to be a spotlight on the issue of gun violence in Texas. By keeping it in their mind’s eye, politicians will be forced to remain accountable and propose new or updated pieces of legislation for prevention of the consistent threat of gun violence.
Another reason for the lack of action on gun reform is, quite simply, that it makes people uncomfortable. It’s easy to see why, though: A good majority of the hesitancy with gun reform is the supposed threat to the Second Amendment. Any movements toward reform are often met with belligerent accusations of unconstitutional malfeasance. Oppositely, those against reform are thought to lack moral fortitude in their careless disregard for lives. Proponents, as well as opponents, of gun reform remain obstinate in their reasonings and positions. Such a false dichotomy puts both sides in a double bind, forcing a culture that promotes animosity and troublesome energies. Without the ability for open-door conversations on such a pressing issue, a solution will never be reached.
The consequences of not touching the issue of gun violence could have more pressing consequences than previously realized. A lack of action on gun reform could lead to the degeneration of the entire movement; therefore, it is critical to save a movement dithering on the brink of collapse.
If the country is forced back into lockdown, amid increasing COVID-19 infection rates, the loose-fitting gun laws in place could allow for more opportunities for domestic violence disputes and the possibility of a suicide epidemic. In fact, as the country closed down, gun sales went up, especially among first-time buyers. In the midst of a global pandemic, where stress, anxiety, and depression rates are higher than ever, an increase in suicides does not seem so far fetched. In addition, past data has yielded correlations between a state’s gun ownership rate and its mortality rates. Such evidence and easy access to firearms in Texas means that an increase in gun violence could be on the horizon, which is why it remains critical for reform to take place.