Eight people were shot to death and seven others were injured in a mass shooting in Allen, Texas, over the weekend. The gunman, who used to work as a security guard, was armed with an AR-15-style rifle. Ultimately, he was killed by a police officer who was at the mall due to an unrelated call.
Nicole Golden is the executive director of Texas Gun Sense, an advocacy group that aims to reduce gun deaths and injuries through common sense and evidence-based policies. She spoke with Scripps News' "Morning Rush" hosts to discuss efforts toward safer distribution of firearms.
Texas Gun Sense recognizes Americans' rights to own guns, which is indeed a right prescribed in the Constitution. But, when considering U.S. laws that could be strengthened to curb gun violence, Golden says although there's not a one-size-fits-all solution, there are proven solutions and proven steps we can take in the right direction.
"You can hardly process the last mass shooting and traumatic event before confronting the next one, which is no way to live. And that's one of the reasons we do this work at Texas Gun Sense," she said. "There's not one answer to reducing gun violence in all its forms. But in terms of some of these mass shootings that we've continued to see every week across the country, and especially here in our state, there are some proven steps we can take."
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Golden says Texas Gun Sense has been working hard to move a bill forward that would raise the age requirement for purchasing an AR-15, or other semiautomatic rifle, to 21 years old. She emphasized the bill is in response to the deadliest shooting in the U.S., which resulted in 21 deaths and countless injuries at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last year.
"Had that law been in place this time last year, those children and teachers would still be alive," Golden said. "That bill is currently stalled in committee and today is the last day that the committee chair could move it out and one step closer to the House floor for a vote. So, we're very disappointed that they have not prioritized that legislation."
Some people who oppose gun control say it's people who people kill people, not guns. They have argued mental illness is the root cause of gun violence and that the right to have a gun is a Second Amendment freedom. In response, Golden says mental health is not the cause but we should include that topic as we explore every factor and every solution.
"Mental health deserves a fair conversation, but is mental health the cause of gun violence? The data does not say that," she told Scripps News. "In fact, what our mental health advocate partners often tell us is that most individuals who are suffering from mental illness are more often victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violent crime. It isn't an adequate explanation for 40,000 Americans dying from gun violence every year in this country."
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Mass shootings are a uniquely American problem. Golden says it's obvious that easy access to guns is the clear difference between the U.S. and other countries.
Texas and Georgia have some of the most relaxed gun laws, while California has some of the strictest but still has suffered many mass shootings.
"The solutions that we propose are solutions that most people agree on. If you look at public polling, it is more in favor than it's been in a long time for these measures. Raising the age to 21 for semi-automatic rifle purchase is about at 80% favorability here in Texas. That is really high. And when we look at that 80%, that's all kinds of people — gun owners and non-gun owners alike."
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