On Wednesday afternoon, Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) interrupted a press conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) on Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, sparking a heated confrontation.
Much of the audio in videos capturing the scene is unclear, but O’Rourke can be heard telling the Republican politicians, “This is on you...You are doing nothing. You said this was not predictable, this was totally predictable, and you choose not to do anything.”
“The time to stop the next shooting is right now,” O’Rourke continued, “and you are doing nothing.”
Before O’Rourke was escorted from the building by police officers, Abbott, Patrick, and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin responded as you might have expected. McLaughlin called O’Rourke a “sick son of a bitch” for trying to “politicize” the shooting, while notably sharing the stage with Dan “senior citizens should be willing to die of covid to keep the economy alive” Patrick. Figures on the stage can also be heard calling O’Rourke an “asshole” and “out of line” to disrupt the event. Abbott, meanwhile, is set to speak at an NRA conference this weekend, holds an A+ rating from the NRA, and once bemoaned the fact that Texas fell second to California as the state with the most new gun purchases, telling Texans, “Let’s pick up the pace.”
After O’Rourke was removed from the building, Patrick reportedly compared the disruption to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars in March and criticized O’Rourke for not standing united with state leadership. The absolutely brain-wormed conversation about the confrontation will inevitably criticize O’Rourke for lack of civility—as if there’s anything remotely civil about the government actively enabling mass shooting after mass shooting, and the slaughter of kids as young as seven-years-old so that everyday people can own mass killing machines that didn’t exist when the Constitution was written.
Abbott and Patrick are also emphatic that O’Rourke was “out-of-line” to “make this about politics,” as if thousands of children and people dying each year as a direct result of policy failure could ever, somehow, be apolitical. We know just how quickly lawmakers can act when they perceive a threat to the safety of people in power—earlier this month, Congress passed a bill funding security for Supreme Court Justices facing peaceful protesters within days. In contrast, because the lives of elementary school children apparently don’t fucking matter, gun safety legislation has stalled for decades.
At the end of the day, there is arguably nothing more political than the choice to not just enable, but essentially encourage gun violence by repeatedly rejecting common-sense safety measures, and fanning the flames of America’s uniquely gun-nut culture. Once again, Abbott literally tweeted in 2015, tagging the NRA, “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”
But, sure. O’Rourke confronting Texas state leadership on their total moral abdication is what’s really “out-of-line.”
O’Rourke’s disruption of the event has since been lauded by gun safety advocates like Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, who called him a “hero.” In 2019, while O’Rourke represented El Paso in Congress, his district was subjected to a mass shooting from a far-right gunman who killed 23 people, prompting O’Rourke to center his presidential campaign around gun safety measures. He also became known for his candor on the issue, calling the state of gun violence in America “fucked up” and unapologetically declaring that he wanted to take away people’s assault rifles. As politicians spew out their typical rinse-and-repeat “thoughts and prayers” tweets in the face of this latest, entirely preventable tragedy—literally appearing to be filling in the blanks of a generic tweet format that got circulated—O’Rourke’s outrage and disruptiveness are heartening and entirely warranted right now.