After 50-Plus Years and Several Mass Shootings, Not Much Has Changed for Gun Control in Texas

Rifles inside the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas in May 2018.
Rifles inside the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas in May 2018. Brian Maschino
Friday morning's shooting at a high school in Santa Fe left eight students and two teachers dead and forced state officials to assume their usual positions. Another catastrophic act of gun violence had happened in the state, and there were thoughts to think and prayers to pray. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, faced with yet another gun tragedy, added a new wrinkle this time by creating a task force to look at school security in the state, a move that comes with no promise of action.

On the whole, the days after the shooting played out similarly to the days, weeks and months that have followed rampage killings over the last 50 years. Since Charles Whitman killed 16 and wounded 31 more from the top of the University of Texas tower in 1966, Texas politicians have followed the same script — so much so that quotes about one tragedy might as well have been about the one before it or the one after it.

The locations and body counts change, but the rhetoric doesn't, as evidenced by these 14 quotes, which have been scrubbed of context. See if you can match the quote to the shooting. Answers below.
  1. “What happened is not without a lesson: that we must press urgently for the legislation now pending in Congress to help prevent the wrong person from obtaining firearms. The bill would not prevent all such tragedies, but it would help reduce the unrestricted sale of firearms to those who cannot be trusted in their use and possession. How many lives might be saved as a consequence?"

  2. “The event in [a city in Texas] was an isolated incident by someone who had serious mental challenges, as well as a possible criminal background. It is no indication whatsoever of empowering people with their Second Amendment right. In fact, the contrary is true.”

  3. "I don't know of a law — a government law — that will put love in people's hearts. ... It's hard to explain how hatred lurks in somebody's heart to the point where he walks into a church where children and adults were seeking God's guidance and shoots them."

  4. "I wish some law would fix all this. The reality is, if somebody is willing to kill someone, changing gun laws probably doesn't affect that person. What you have to do is you have to allow citizens to protect themselves."

  5. "What really gets me as a Christian is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs and then a senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place."

  6. "The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It's homes without discipline. It's communities without values."

  7. “We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies and particularly violent video games. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of violent video games.”

  8. "Strict enforcement of tough laws is important. But ultimately, the safety of our children depends on more than laws. It depends on the values we teach them and the kind of culture we create and condone.”

  9. "[People] looked me in the eye and demanded that I would not allow this tragedy to take away their guns.

  10. "When I was at the hospital with the victims, with the victims' families, over and over again what they said to me in Texas — they said gun control is not the answer here.

  11. "One of the things that I hope we don't want to see from the federal government is a knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they can come in and think they know the answer."

  12. “The reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is to try to politicize it. So they immediately start calling that we’ve got to take away the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. That’s not the right answer.”

  13. "Maybe somebody could have stopped that crazy guy in there had there been an armed citizen. Maybe then he wouldn't have gotten so far."

  14. "The answer to gun violence isn't to take guns out of the hands of people like [person], or the people of [city]. The answer is to strengthen Second Amendment rights for law abiding citizens in the United States of America."


1. President Lyndon B. Johnson urging Congress to pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of Whitman's spree.

2. Abbott during the signing ceremony for Texas' 2015 open carry law. His remarks came just a few days after James Boulware opened fire on Dallas' police headquarters in June 2015.

3. Then-Gov. George W. Bush after Larry Gene Ashbrook shot and killed eight people, including himself, at Fort Worth's Wedgwood Baptist Church in 1999.

4. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after Devin Kelley killed 26 people at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs in 2017.

5. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert after James Holmes opened fire on movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

6. Abbott at the 2018 National Rifle Association annual meeting, addressing shootings in Sutherland Springs and Parkland, Florida.

7. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on ABC's This Week, discussing the shooting in Santa Fe.

8. Bush addressing the need for increased school safety after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

9. Abbott's NRA speech again. This time he's recounting Sutherland Springs' residents pleas to him after the shooting.

10. Ted Cruz's recollection of Sutherland Springs' aftermath, during a Fox News interview in which he accused Democrats of politicizing the Parkland shooting.

11. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

12. Sen. Ted Cruz on Fox and Friends speaking about the shooting in Parkland.

13. Jim Brown, then a spokesman for the Texas Rifle Association, to The New York Times, after George Hennard crashed his truck into a Luby's in Killeen, got out and shot and killed 23 people during the lunch rush.

14. Abbott, stressing the need for more good guys with guns in the aftermath of Sutherland Springs.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young