It’s with a heavy heart and a deep sense of hopelessness that we write of yet another horrific tragedy, another mass shooting in America, this time targeted at little children simply trying to prepare for the rest of their lives.
But as families grieve in Uvalde, (and in Buffalo, and in Orange County California) Senate Republicans in Washington began Thursday morning on the vigorous action that always accompanies their “thoughts and prayers” for victims of mass shootings: they blocked a bill that would have strengthened protection against domestic terrorism, and which could have been used to spark a larger debate in the Senate on amendments for gun safety legislation in general.
In plain language, this was not just an abdication of these Republican Senators’ duty to the country. It was an abdication of their duties as humans, as men and women, mothers, brothers and sons, in the face of a tragedy that is all too common.
Had the bill been allowed to move into the debate stage, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Times, “he would [have opened it] up to proposed changes from both parties to address gun violence.”
Instead, heartbreakingly, predictably, it was blocked.
And to be clear: Republican Senators blocked this bill not from being passed, but from being debated.
Senator Ted Cruz represents the people of Texas. That includes the grieving parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends of the 19 children in Uvalde who were gunned down by an 18 year old with a military style assault rifle. Here is Cruz, taking a public and vigorous stand against…doors. And demanding armed guards be posted outside them, evidently ignorant of reports that the shooter engaged with an armed guard posted outside of the school, but managed to evade him and get inside anyway.
Another of Cruz’s constituents died today. This, according to The New York Times: “Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed in Uvalde, died this morning of a heart attack, said his nephew, John Martinez. Mr. Garcia, 50, had visited his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning to drop off flowers. When he got back home, he “pretty much just fell over,” Mr. Martinez said. They were married for 24 years and had four children, the oldest 23 and the rest teenagers. He had been riven with grief when he lost the love of his life, Mr. Martinez said. “I’m really in shock right now.”
Greg Abbot is the Governor of Texas. He also represents those same grieving families and friends, literally dying of heartbreak. During his time in office he has worked tirelessly to prevent and even undo any remotely common sense gun safety laws on the books in Texas, all while deflecting the blame he and his Republican colleagues are due for the many mass shootings that have occurred under his watch in the Lone Star State.
Wednesday, he held just such a press conference, intended to superficially address the tragedy while simultaneously denying that his abhorrent gun policies had anything to do with what had just taken place. During it, he was bravely interrupted by a visibly riven Beto O’Rourke (video below), who approached the stage and demanded Abbott hold himself accountable, shouting “You are doing nothing!” and “This is so predictable.”
(Even acknowledging that many on the Right are framing O’Rourke’s behavior as opportunist, let’s agree with the premise of this Vanity Fair piece and note that when courage and idealism are framed as opportunist, the world is made worse.)
He was quickly jeered away by Republicans onstage, removed from the auditorium, and called a “son of a bitch” by a Texas Sheriff.
Yet here he is, persisting, speaking to reporters outside, shaken but still passionately demanding action.
Indeed, as O’Rourke says, it’s predictable. Across the country heartsick Americans are predictably asking themselves the same questions as always: does it really have to be status quo to send our children to school with trepidation in America? With fear that they might not return home at the end of the day? Why is nothing being done about this? Why is nothing ever done?
Jimmy Kimmel asked those same questions in a powerful monologue Wednesday night (video below). The time for thoughts and prayers, for moments of silence, is over. That’s what he told his millions of viewers. Now is the time for noise.