Mass Shootings in Texas – is it a “gun law” issue?

Let’s talk about mass shootings. Let’s talk about Texas, as well, while we’re at it.

So, we now know that Texas is making headlines again after the active attack at the Allen Mall. I have already started seeing social media posts, framing Active Attacks and gun laws in Texas, as if there is a connection. Is there?
To address the massive elephant in the room, I’ll ask the question: Is there a nexus between the gun laws in Texas and the active attacks taking place there? Why Texas?

To understand the issue, we will (unfortunately) have to visit the history of Active Attacks (or “Mass Shootings”) that happened there and consider the merits of each, in context.

The Fort Hood Shooting

This happened back in 2009. In that case, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others. Was he armed because of gun laws in Texas? Well, no. He was armed because he was in the military. This attacker was found guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder on August 23, 2013, and was sentenced to death on August 28, 2013.

It turns out that a Joint Terrorism Task Force had been aware of a series of e-mails between the attacker and the Yemen-based Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been monitored by the NSA as a security threat, and that Hasan’s colleagues had been aware of his increasing radicalization for several years.

I think we can comfortably say that this was an attack that followed the radicalization of a member of the US Military and that it was not affected by gun laws in Texas.

Another Fort Hood Shooting

In 2014, the same Military base was plagued by yet another active attack. This time, a shooting spree was perpetrated at several locations on the Fort Hood (now Fort Cavazos) military base near Killeen, Texas. Four people, including the gunman, were killed while 14 additional people were injured; 12 by gunshot wounds. The shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Immediately prior to the shooting, the soldier, an Iraq War Veteran went to the 49th Transportation Battalion administrative office where he tried to obtain a ten-day leave. The request was ultimately denied, and he left but returned and opened fire with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P pistol inside the same building. This shooting spree carried on until he took his own life.

Another case that cannot be linked to gun laws in Texas.

Dallas Police Shooting

Because an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran was angry over police shootings of black men, he ambushed a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, shooting and killing five officers, and injuring nine others. Following the shooting, the suspect fled inside a building on the campus of El Centro College. Police followed him there, and a standoff ensued. In the early hours of July 8, police killed Johnson with a bomb attached to a remote control bomb disposal robot.

In the aftermath, police investigated the shooter’s body and equipment. He was found lying next to a rifle, two handguns, additional rifle magazines, and a bag filled with supplies.

An investigation into the shooter’s online activities uncovered his interest in Black nationalist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and news outlets reported that he had “liked” the Facebook pages of Black nationalist organizations such as the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), Nation of Islam, and Black Riders Liberation Army, three groups which are listed by the SPLC as hate groups. On Facebook, he posted an angry and “disjointed” post against White people on July 2, several days before the attack.

It would probably be safe to assume that the motivation, supported by a career in the military, was not based on the laws in Texas, but rather on another case of radicalization if his affiliations are considered.

The Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

In the Sutherland Springs church shooting that occurred on November 5, 2017, the shooter killed 26 people, including an unborn child, and wounded 22 others, before killing himself. In this case, the shooter was prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms and ammunition due to a domestic violence conviction in a court-martial while in the United States Air Force. The shooter’s general court-martial guilty plea should have made it illegal for him to own, buy, or possess a firearm or ammunition. The conviction should have been flagged by NICS and prevented the purchase. Federal law prohibits those convicted of domestic violence–even if it is only a misdemeanor–from possessing firearms. However, the Air Force failed to relay the court-martial convictions to the FBI.

The shooter purchased two guns from the HAFB Exchange, four more from stores in Colorado and Texas, then another from an unknown source, and also a Semi-Automatic Rifle in San Antonio. The State of Texas denied his application for a license to carry a handgun.

In this matter, the estranged second wife of the shooter sometimes attended First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs with her family. Prior to the shooting, the shooter had sent threatening text messages to her mother. His wife and her mother were not at the church when the attack occurred, but he killed his wife’s grandmother at the church.

In this case, the system seemingly failed and prompted changes, but this could have happened anywhere, since the “original sin” related to the Air Force not properly reporting his record and conviction.

Santa Fé High School Shooting

In this attack, ten people – eight students and two teachers – were fatally shot, and thirteen others were wounded. The gunman began firing a weapon into an art class at the school at 7:32 a.m. One wounded victim told reporters the shooter walked into the classroom and pointed his firearm at another person, singing “Another One Bites the Dust” in between shots.

The shooter told police he meant to kill the classmates he shot and wanted to spare the students he liked, so he could “have his story told”. The shooting lasted about 25 minutes until he was arrested.

According to the probable cause affidavit and complaint filed by law enforcement, the shooter used a short-barreled 12-gauge Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun and a Rossi .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver. Both firearms appear to have been legally owned by his father. Various types of explosive devices were found at the school and off campus, as well as a Molotov cocktail.

The suspected shooter was identified as a 17-year-old student at the school. His journals on his computer and cell phone, found by police after the shooting, suggested: “not only did he want to commit the shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting, planned on doing this for some time.”

Since this was a bullying incident where the shooter had access to legal firearms, the same incident could have happened anywhere – not only in Texas. This eliminates gun laws as a nexus for the incident.

In this attack, a far-right white individual killed 23 people and injured 23 others. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime. The shooting occurred at a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall on the east side of El Paso. The shooter walked into the store carrying what is believed to be a WASR-10, a semi-automatic civilian version of the AK-47, and opened fire just before 10:40 a.m. After the shooting, the suspect drove to the intersection of Sunmount and Viscount, where he identified himself as the shooter and surrendered to Texas Rangers and an El Paso motorcycle officer.

In this matter, the shooter was a 21-year-old white male, last known to have lived in his family’s home in Allen, Texas, in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, approximately 650 miles (1,050 km) from El Paso. He legally purchased a GP WASR-10 semiautomatic rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition online in June 2019. The arrest warrant affidavit says the shooter waived his Miranda rights, confessed to detectives that he was the shooter, and admitted that he targeted “Mexicans” during the attack. He had also been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Since the firearm and ammunition were purchased on-line, there is no nexus to Texas Gun Laws to consider, since this could easily have happened in any state where online shopping for firearms and ammunition is possible, allowed, or legal.

The Midland – Odessa Shootings

On August 31, 2019, a spree shooting occurred in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa, involving a gunman shooting multiple people from a vehicle. Eight people were killed, including the perpetrator, and twenty-five people were injured, including three police officers.

The shooting spree began at 3:17 p.m. during a traffic stop on Interstate 20, where a Texas state trooper was shot while attempting to stop a gold 1999 Toyota Camry over a failure to signal a left turn. The suspect continued into Odessa, Texas, and shot another person on the Interstate. In Odessa, he abandoned the Toyota, hijacked a United States Postal Service-labeled Dodge Caravan, killed a 29-year-old letter carrier, and continued to drive and shoot people before police cornered and killed him in the parking lot of a Cinergy movie theater.

Eight people, ranging in age from 15 to 57, were killed. Seventeen more were hospitalized for injuries. Among the injured were three police: a Texas state trooper, a Midland police officer, and an Odessa police officer.

In January 2014, the suspect failed a national criminal background check when he tried to purchase a gun; the system flagged him as ineligible because of a prior local court determination that he was mentally unfit. According to law enforcement officials, he subsequently bought the gun used in the shooting via a private sale, without having to go through a background check.

Since this was an online sale and not subject to or influenced by background checks, it is not regarded as a situation that applies specifically to gun laws in Texas. The same sequence of events could have unfolded in any other state where the direct purchase of guns would be allowed.

Rob Elementary (Uvalde) School Shooting

This mass shooting occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, United States, where an 18-year-old suspect who was a former student at the school, fatally shot nineteen students and two teachers, while seventeen others were injured but survived.

After shooting and severely wounding his grandmother at their home earlier that day, the suspect drove to the school. He fired shots for approximately five minutes outside the school before entering unobstructed with an AR-15-style rifle through an unlocked side entrance door. He then shut himself inside two adjoining classrooms, without locking the classroom door, and killed the victims. He remained in the school for more than an hour before members of the United States Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) fatally shot him after bypassing numerous local and state officers who had been in the school’s hallways for over an hour.

Using his Facebook account, the shooter sent three private messages to a 15-year-old girl from Germany whom he had met online prior to the shooting: the first to say that he was going to shoot his grandmother; a second to say that he had shot his grandmother; and a third, about 15 minutes before the shooting, to say that he was going to open fire at an elementary school.

According to police, the suspect wore a tactical vest for carrying ammunition that did not include ballistic protection or armor insert panels, a backpack, and all-black clothing while carrying an AR-15-style rifle and seven 30-round magazines. He brought into the school only one of the two rifles that he had legally bought and left the other in the crashed truck.

Since there is no information, at this time, to illustrate when, where, and how he purchased the firearms, there is no specific evidence to suggest that the laws in Texas, specifically, featured in the planning or execution of this crime.

Allen Premium Outlets Mall Shooting

Since this case happened very recently, there is not much information available. At this stage, news reports indicate that the 33-year-old suspect shot and killed eight people, including children, on May 6, 2023. As I was writing this, it was reported that the shooter had been discharged from the Army for mental health reasons. The suspect who entered the Army in June 2008, was terminated three months later without completing his initial entry training — and was not assigned a specific job or “military occupational specialty.”

Police suspect his ideology might be linked to his motive. While it is an ongoing investigation, evidence suggests that the shooter held far-right extremist beliefs. At the time of his death, officials say he was wearing a patch with the acronym “RWDS” — which stands for “Right Wing Death Squad.” The same patch was worn by a Proud Boys member who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Social media accounts that appear to belong to Garcia showcase neo-Nazi and white supremacist views. His victims were mostly people of Korean and Indian descent.

Since this shooter was most likely motivated by extremist or supremacist ideals, the gun laws in Texas would likely not feature in the event.

As far as I am able to determine, from the events for which there is adequate information, and from my own (admittedly, subjective) interpretation of that information, as it relates to active attacker or mass shooter events in Texas, I cannot see any evidence that reliably suggests that gun laws in Texas should feature in this discussion.

I consider the events that actually happened in Texas (not the arguments that might follow in the light of all active attacker events) not to be an indication that the situation in Texas would be any different from that in any other state of the US where similar gun laws prevail.

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