Targeting Gov. Abbott, New Cable Ad in Dallas-Fort Worth Includes Disturbing Audio from Uvalde 911 Call

A new ad takes Gov. Greg Abbott to task over the Uvalde shooting.
A new ad takes Gov. Greg Abbott to task over the Uvalde shooting. Erich Schlegel / Getty Images
On Sunday, a group called No It Couldn’t LLC is releasing a cable TV ad blasting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his gun policies. The ad includes disturbing audio from a 911 call a child made during the mass murder at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School in May.

The new, 30-second ad comes two weeks after the Delaware-registered LLC, a dark-money group reported on by the Texas Tribune last month, released a similar ad that included video footage of the Uvalde shooter, who shot and killed 19 children and two teachers.

The first ad, which played audio of gunshots ringing out at the school, sparked angry criticism from Texas Republicans. "It is completely irresponsible to use a mass shooter’s name or image,” Republican state Rep. Dustin Burrows wrote, in part, on Twitter at the time.

The new ad will run on cable in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the group told the Observer before the ad was released.

The ad starts with snippets of an interview in which Abbott dismissed criticism of his policies easing access to guns.

“Remember when we passed open carry and campus carry?” Abbott says in the interview. “People said it’s going to be the O.K. Corral. None of that happened.” (The O.K. Corral was an infamous shootout between lawmen and outlaws in the Arizona Territory in 1881.)

The ad then switches to a security camera clip of the rifle-carrying Uvalde shooter walking through a hall in Robb Elementary School.

Next, it switches back to Abbott saying, “I don’t think there’s going to be any bad side effect to it.”

The ad flashes to security camera footage of the shooter approaching a classroom, and then plays a partial audio recording of a 911 call a young girl made during the massacre.

"Please hurry. There’s a lot of dead bodies." - 911 call

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A 911 operator says, “Uvalde County 911.”

The girl says, “There’s a school shooting.”

Back to Abbott again, the governor says, “And I feel pretty good about it passing.”

Next, the girl continues, “I’m in classroom 112. Please hurry. There’s a lot of dead bodies.” The ad comes to a sudden end with a dial tone and a black screen.

Speaking by telephone, a representative of No It Couldn’t LLC, who declined to be named in this article, admitted that the ad was sure to be controversial.

But he likened the ad's Uvalde footage to the impact of the open-casket funeral for Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

“I think that's important to be stark here and have people not avert their eyes,” he told the Observer. “We need people to not forget what's happening, and those little kids aren't with us anymore.”

Insisting that the group isn’t opposed to the Second Amendment, he added, “We just care more about our kids than the guns.”

"We just care more about our kids than the guns." - No It Couldn't LLC

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The LLC’s name is a dig at the governor’s now-infamous comment after the school shooting, in which he said, “It could have been worse.”

In the immediate wake of the Uvalde massacre, Abbott canceled a scheduled in-person appearance at a National Rifle Association meeting in Houston. Instead, he sent a prerecorded video address.

Since becoming governor, Abbott has trumpeted several bills designed to ease access to guns. Ahead of the 2021 legislative session, the governor deemed expanding gun rights a nonemergency priority.

In June 2021, the Texas Republican signed into law a bill that allows for permitless carry, a measure that many law enforcement agencies and police departments around the state opposed. On Sept. 1 that year, Texans could legally carry guns without a license and without any training.

Abbott also vowed to declare Texas a so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary state,” which, if implemented, would forbid state agencies from complying with federal gun rules that weren’t already on the books in Texas law.

The new No It Couldn’t LLC ad comes just days before the midterm elections, which will take place on Tuesday. Throughout the campaign season, Texas Democrats have railed against Abbott and other Republicans over gun violence, the state’s new abortion ban and the governor’s ongoing border crackdown.

Abbott’s Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, has sought to rally voters against the governor over mass shootings like the one in Uvalde.

During a debate in late September, O’Rourke criticized Abbott’s response to the Uvalde massacre, saying of the victims’ families that “it’s been 18 weeks since their kids have been killed, and not a thing has changed in this state to make it any less likely that any other child will meet the same fate.”

During that debate, Abbott defended his response to the massacre, arguing that “we need to get to the bottom of what is really ailing our communities, and that is the mental health that is leading people to engage in school shootings … and Texas is already addressing that.”

After the Uvalde massacre, Abbott announced, among other measures, a $1.25 million grant to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District for trauma counseling, community outreach and crisis intervention. The grant came after Abbott already dedicated $5 million in funds for a "long-term family resiliency center" in Uvalde County, ABC News reported in July.
Uvalde wasn’t the first mass shooting during Abbott’s time in the governor’s mansion. In August 2019, a white nationalist drove from a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb to El Paso, where he gunned down 23 people in a Walmart.

In November 2017, a gunman shot and killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a community located some 76 miles south of Austin.

But O’Rourke has also faced criticism over his comments on guns in the past. During a 2019 debate, he issued a pledge to take away AR-15s, a remark that prompted backlash from gun groups and Republicans alike.

In September, The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler released a poll that found 60% of voters surveyed didn’t think Texas officials have done enough to stop mass shootings. The same poll said 63% of those surveyed were concerned about gun violence in their communities.
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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