Monday, May 21, 2018


Here are the lead paragraphs of a New York Times story about opinions on guns in Texas after the Santa Fe shooting:
One mile from the scene of the shooting that left 10 people dead at her school, Monica Bracknell, a senior at Santa Fe High School, approached Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the lobby of Arcadia First Baptist Church here Sunday morning.

Her message was simple: The violence was not “a political issue,” she told Mr. Abbott, explaining to reporters afterward that schools needed to be safer but restricting the availability of guns was not the way to achieve it.

After the February rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students there helped ignite the most successful push for action on gun control in decades in that state. There is little indication of anything similar in Texas, a place where guns are hard-wired into the state’s psyche, Republicans control virtually all the levers of power, and where the victims of Friday’s rampage in a conservative rural area are showing little of the anti-gun fervor that followed the Parkland shooting in a more diverse, suburban one.

In the wake of the tragedy, gun issues are likely to take on a new urgency in a few Texas political races, including Republican congressional districts that Democrats are trying to flip, but the debate is far more muted and dominated by support for gun rights than it had been in Florida post-Parkland.

“Florida is a swing state,” said Calvin Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “You start with the understanding that Florida is a purple state in which Democrats and Republicans are both competitive. Texas is a deep-red state, in which the Republican Party is in complete and total control. They don’t feel that partisan electoral heat.”

What played out instead was a reminder, as happened after 26 people were killed in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in November, that major gun violence often does not produce a backlash against guns. The differences in how the issue has played out in Texas and Florida illustrate just how hard it can be to establish a consensus on gun issues in America. For gun control advocates, what works in one part of the country does not work in others, even down to the vocabulary used. Some pro-gun Texans question the phrase “gun violence” and avoid using it, saying it is as arbitrary as talking about knife violence.
All of this may be true, and the story goes on for sixteen more paragraphs in this fashion. But then we're told:
Polling shows the state’s voters are more split on guns than popular culture might indicate. According to an October poll by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune, more than half of the registered voters surveyed said gun control laws should be stricter. Only 13 percent said the laws should be less strict than they are now, and 31 percent would prefer to leave current gun laws unchanged.
My response is: So it's not "popular culture" that's misinforming us about Texans' attitudes regard gun laws -- it's you, New York Times. It's you saying that "guns are hard-wired into the state’s psyche" and quoting (as the story goes on to do) primarily Republican politicians and residents of this rural community. (Texas isn't a rural state -- it has four of the eleven most populous cities in America. City dwellers are Americans, too -- and city dwellers in Texas are Texans.)

I wish this story had examined the disjuncture between the widespread support for at least some tightening of gun laws and the political impossibility of tightening in many parts of America. In Texas, it's not because keeping the gun laws loose is the will of the state's residents -- the poll numbers make that clear -- but because the minority that resists change is dominant. The story could have made clearer that that's what's going on, rather than implying that love of unrestricted guns is essential to the entire state's culture and we liberals just don't understand.

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