This morning Gov. Greg Abbott will convene the first meeting of the Texas Safety Commission, formed in the wake of another deadly shooting rampage in Texas, this one in El Paso and targeting Hispanics, leaving a death toll of 22 with dozens more wounded. Let’s hope this commission doesn’t begin work with one hand tied behind its back in deference to the almighty gun lobby. If everything isn’t on the table, then there’s no point in staging another dog-and-pony show such as that after the Santa Fe High School massacre. First clue Abbott is serious: if today’s meeting is fully open to the press. If not, expect another political charade for the gullible.
“The State of Texas will not relent in its effort to help the El Paso community heal and keep all Texans safe,” Abbott said in a statement this week. “The Texas Safety Commission will bring together experts and community leaders to develop an action plan to combat threats of domestic terrorism, root out extremist ideologies and address the link between mental-health challenges and gun violence in our communities. By working together, we will ensure a safe and secure future for all Texans.”
We’ll be the judge of that. Inclusion of such demagogues as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the commission at least guarantees less biased members will be able to look across the table at the very forces who have aggravated racial tensions and the nation’s immigration battles to the point someone in Texas this month finally took all the hate-radio and campaign-rally rhetoric to heart, seized arms and went hunting “Mexicans” in El Paso to stop the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
To his credit, the governor has included on the commission not only Hispanic lawmakers who understand the racially charged hatred directed their way — such as state Sen. José Rodríguez and state Reps. Mary González, César Blanco, Joe Moody and Art Fierro (all of the El Paso region) — but also Ed Scruggs of Texas Gun Sense, whose mission involves gun regulations that don’t conflict with the Second Amendment, including keeping guns “out of the hands of dangerous people like domestic abusers and convicted criminals.” And for those who believe any gun regulation is contrary to the spirit of the Second Amendment, we suggest a closer reading of the Supreme Court ruling often cited in defense of Second Amendment rights, District of Columbia v. Heller, written by arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
In a very tragic sense, the 22 dead in the El Paso slaughter give leaders one more chance to rectify matters after faltering in the wake of the 2018 Santa Fe High School massacre (10 dead, eight of them students) and the 2017 Sutherland Springs church slaughter (26 dead, including an unborn child). After Lt. Gov. Patrick signaled any red-flag bill was DOA in the Senate, Gov. Abbott surrendered the notion and the 2019 legislative session went on to instead become an NRA triumph brimming with pro-gun laws. Given our president’s familiar retreat from gun reform vows after El Paso, it’s clear that too often the “thoughts and prayers” politicians offer shooting victims include prayers pleading that the living simply forget once the dead are cold and conveniently out of sight.