Will the Horrifying Mass Shooting in Odessa Set the Stage for Stricter Gun Laws in Texas?
ODESSA, TX — “I heard her screaming. I wasn’t sure what she was going through. I heard her cry, you know,” is how Rosie Granados described to CNN the last cell phone conversation she had with her twin sister Mary, 29. Mary was killed when the gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Odessa hijacked Mary’s U.S. Post Office minivan. Surveillance video has surfaced showing Mary delivering mail moments before the gunman attacked her to steal her van.
Mary said after the phone called ended with Mary appearing to be unresponsive, she searched and found her sister’s lifeless body on the ground.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said the shooting victims who died ranged in age from 15 to 57 years old. In all, the gunman killed seven and injured 22 more, including three law enforcement officers who were injured. The youngest victim was 17 months old.
With heartbreaking stories coming out of Odessa this week, the call for more laws restricting gun ownership have once again surfaced.
Presidential candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke took to CNN’s State of the Union show Sunday morning saying, “This is f*&ked up.” He called for universal background checks and red flag laws. He later defended his use of profanity.
On MSNBC on Sunday, O’Rourke emphasized the need to speak bluntly, citing Rabbi Latz, saying “Profanity is not the f-bomb. What is profane is a 17 month-old baby being shot in the face.”
The day prior to the shootings, O’Rourke told a reporter in Charlottesville, Virginia, “I want to be really clear that that’s exactly what we are going to do,” he said. If you own an AK-47 or AR-15, “you’ll have to sell them to the government,”
Here’s the video of O’Rourke pledging to force owners of AK- and AR-type long guns to sell their weapons to the federal government if he is elected president.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday in Odessa there are too many mass shooting events in Texas, and there flanked by Republican lawmakers in the Texas Legislature, vowed for more legislation that curb the chances of more mass shootings while at the same time protecting Second Amendment gun ownership rights.
How ready west Texas lawmakers are for placing restrictions on gun ownership rights is in question.
Sen. Charles Perry, whose district adjoins Odessa and Ector County, is on record for being a staunch supporter of gun ownership rights. He specifically said “red flag” laws could be abused by the wrong regulator at the government’s helm, and said he opposes them at last month’s West Texas Legislative Summit in San Angelo. He was among the representatives in Odessa with the governor Sunday.
State Rep. Brooks Landgraf who represents Odessa in the Texas House co-authored the open carry bill that Abbott signed into law in 2015. Landgraf, who comes from a ranching family familiar with guns, has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association.
Also at Sunday’s press conference was State Rep. Tom Craddick, a former speaker of the Texas House who represents Midland. The NRA rates him at 93 percent, favoring less gun restrictions.
Craddick said that the governor could call for a special session of the Texas Legislature to address new gun laws, according to KXAN in Austin. “The governor could, if he finds something that he thinks will help, some strong laws, [that] won’t get a lot of pushback, he could call a special session,” Craddick said.
On Sept. 1, eight laws passed during the 2019 legislative session in Texas went into effect that clarify gun possession statutes, such as allowing a teacher to have a gun with ammunition in their personal vehicle on a public school campus as long as the gun is not in plain sight; increases the number of armed marshals who can be on public school property; allows firearms in foster homes; and bars property owners from restricting most gun rights.
So far, it is unclear if the background history of the killed gunman Seth A. Ator, 36, of Odessa, presented any flags as to if a background check would have prevented him from purchasing an AR-style rifle. He had an old and disposed case against him for criminal trespassing and evading arrest in Waco from 2001. He was given deferred adjudication probation for two years back then. The charges were misdemeanors.
Authorities revealed that the shooter had been fired from his trucking job hours prior to the shooting spree and Craddick told the Midland Reporter-Telegram Ator had previously failed a background check. There were no specifics.
State Sen. Kel Seliger, the Republican representing the district whose boundaries include Odessa, appeared open to take action after the shootings in his hometown. In a statement, he said, “After spending the day with victims, their families, law enforcement, first responders and Governor Abbott my heart is heavy for the Permian Basin. As an elected official I will continue to look to my constituents for guidance on solutions that will prevent this evil from occurring in the future.”
His statement mirrored Governor Abbott’s thoughts.
If Republicans in charge today decide to take action, the climate in favor of more gun restriction laws is favorable. A poll released in February by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas revealed that 49 percent of Texans are ready for stricter gun laws.
There have been two more mass shootings, in El Paso and now in Odessa, since that poll was released.
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