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Perspective: Gov. Abbott has moved on from the deadly mass shooting at the Allen outlet mall

Five major massacres have happened on Abbott's watch since 2017. His inability to keep Texans safe represents a failure of leadership.

DALLAS — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already moved on from the latest mass murder in the state he represents.

Less than 48 hours after a gunman murdered a three-year-old boy and his parents, turned the rifle to slaughter two young sisters (in the fourth and second grades at Wylie ISD), killed a security guard, an engineer and another innocent victim -- and then wounded more than a half dozen others -- Gov. Abbott was up early on Monday to talk about border security, criticize President Joe Biden and appear live on Fox News.

Then, hours later, the governor traveled to Robstown, near Corpus Christi, to break ground on a new Tesla facility with Elon Musk. 

There, Abbott did not discuss the tragedy in Allen. 

And he took no questions from journalists.

Sure, Gov. Abbott has addressed what happened in Allen.

On Saturday, his office emailed out the following statement:

“Our hearts are with the people of Allen, Texas tonight during this unspeakable tragedy. I have been in contact with Mayor Fulk and DPS Director McCraw as well as other state and local leaders and offered the full support of the State of Texas to local officials to ensure all needed assistance and resources are swiftly deployed, including DPS officers, Texas Rangers, and investigative resources."

Then, on Sunday, Abbott traveled to Allen to attend a community prayer service at Cottonwood Creek Church. 

But he didn't address that crowd. And his office declined an interview request with WFAA. In fact, the governor did not speak to any reporters at all while he was in Collin County.

By Monday morning, it was clear that Abbott wanted to get back to political issues he felt more comfortable discussing.

At 7 a.m., in one of his earliest news conferences ever, in front of carefully staged state guardsmen and aircraft behind him, Gov. Abbott aimed to change the narrative back to border security as the end of Title 42 approaches this week.

This morning, at the end of his prepared statements on sending more guardsmen to the border, Abbott eventually did take one question about the shooting in Allen -- but offered little more.

“The people in Allen, but especially the families, they want to know right now why this happened, how it happened,” Abbott said in his answer. “I believe in the coming days the public will be much better informed about why and how this happened. That will inform us as Texas leaders about next steps to take to try to prevent crimes like this from taking place in the future.”

But the massacre in Allen is just the latest tragedy to happen while Abbott has been governor.

In 2019, following the Santa Fe high school shooting, Abbott abandoned red-flag laws after a backlash from the conservative base.

He eventually signed bills from the legislature to strengthen mental health services for children, and he approved money for school districts to add more security measures to their campuses.

Then, after mass murders in Sutherland Springs, El Paso, Midland and Uvalde, the governor supported efforts to loosen gun laws in Texas.

In 2021, against the wishes of law enforcement leaders across the state, Republicans approved House Bill 1927, which allows most people 21 and over to carry a firearm without the need for a concealed handgun permit and, more importantly, without having any training.

These observations do not suggest that Gov. Abbott doesn’t care about the violence and lives lost. But they do highlight an issue in which Gov. Abbott disagrees with a majority of Texans.

A survey last week by the University of Texas at Austin showed that 76 percent of Texas voters support raising the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. Only 20 percent of Texas voters oppose the idea. 

Perhaps the more interesting statistic from that survey is what Republicans said: Conservative voters in this state back the proposal of raising the gun-purchasing age to 21 years old by a two-to-one margin of 64 percent to 31percent.

Raising that age limit would have prevented the Uvalde shooter from purchasing the firearms he used to kill 19 fourth graders and two teachers last May. Even so, that legislation will not pass before lawmakers adjourn on May 29.

On the other hand, raising the age limit to 21 to purchase a firearm would not have stopped the 33-year-old gunman in Allen over the weekend. 

And Abbott has consistently insisted that tougher gun laws have not stopped mass shootings in other states. Instead, he has said, mental health is the long-term solution.

Mental health services, however, do not appear to have stopped massacres either.

Partisan politics is always at the surface after every mass shooting. 

But Texans still have more in common than we have differences.

Collectively, we all want to be able to go shopping with our family on the weekend, to attend worship safely and to send our children to school -- without worrying whether they will get murdered.

The inability to keep Texans safe is a failure of leadership.

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