‘We know we have a crisis,’ advocate says after Texas mass shooting

Gunfire erupted Tuesday afternoon at a Texas elementary school where at least 18 children were killed. As new details about the rampage emerge, gun advocates in Texas say they have been calling for changes to state gun laws for years after a number of high-profile shootings. Nicole Golden, executive director of the advocacy group Texas Gun Sense, joins William Brangham to discuss.

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  • William Brangham:

    Now, for more reaction from Texas to this mass shooting, Nicole Golden is the executive director of Texas Gun Sense, a not-for-profit advocacy group.

    Nicole, thank you for joining us on this horrible day for your state and for this country.

    Have you heard anything else about what has happened today that gives you any sense of where this young man got these weapons, what type of weapons had been used, anything about this shooting that you can tell us?

  • Nicole Golden, Executive Director, Texas Gun Sense:

    You know what? When we respond to these events, we don't focus on the shooter, we focus on the victims and survivors, and we focus on the change that's needed.

    And what I want everybody to know and to hear is that we are devastated. I got involved — and we're angry. I got involved in this work nearly 10 years ago because of a very tragically similar event at the Sandy Hook School.

    And I had small kids of my own back then. And I got deeply invested. And, in those years, we have seen some of the most high-profile mass shootings take place here in Texas. And we also know that there's everyday gun violence that disproportionately impacts communities of color, and we don't hear about a lot of those in the news.

    We know we have a crisis. And we also know that, after some of these horrific events, our lawmakers promised action. After the Santa Fe school shooting here in Texas in 2018, Governor Abbott laid out a school safety plan with some very sensible measures, some of the same things we had fought for, for years in that legislature, things that would keep guns out of the wrong hands, a measure like an extreme risk protection order to have guns legally and temporarily removed from individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others, a mandatory — mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms to prevent things like this from happening again.

    The legislature did not enact those things. The governor failed on his promises. And, instead, we're faced today with another horrific shooting that might have been prevented.

    And what the legislature did, not only did they not pass those measures, but they went in the opposite direction. Last session, they removed licensing and training requirements to carry a handgun in public in Texas.

    So we're really angry, and we're tired of feeling like we're screaming into the void.

  • William Brangham:

    I can only imagine that sense of frustration you must all feel with that.

    I mean, as you well know, after the Newtown shooting, there was again this promise from national leaders that those types of changes to try to address this problem would be passed. It failed here in Washington, D.C.

    Do you have any hope? And, again, I know we say this every time there is one of these tragedies, that, surely this time, people will recognize that we need to do certain things. Do you have any sense of hope that this now, again, another tragic day, might move the Texas legislature to — in the direction you would like them to move?

  • Nicole Golden:

    You know, I have spent many years advocating in the legislature.

    And last session was brutal. And, as I said, it feels like screaming into the void. They have had their opportunities, and they have failed. Not only have they failed, but they have loosened our already lax gun laws.

    So I want them to hear me. But I also want to address the people and voters of Texas and say, even if our lawmakers don't support their thoughts and prayers with action, you can care. You can demand action. I know you all are hurting. I know you all worry about your own families and children and loved ones today.

    You can do something. So, please, join — join with us. We have to be one loud voice as a community to let our lawmakers know that they can't just offer thoughts and prayers, and then move on to the next.

  • William Brangham:

    But I'm curious.

    You touched several times on this issue of this sense of futility, that you are screaming into the void. Do you have any sense of hope — again, I know it's a terrible thing to be thinking about in a day like today? Do you have any hope that this will change, that we will be able to get our arms around this crisis in America?

  • Nicole Golden:

    You know, I have hope because I have seen this movement grow and grow and grow from something smaller to something big with a collective energy across organizations and communities.

    I have faith in the movement. And I have faith that we will continue to advance action, however small, however big. I have faith that we will chip away, and that we're going to play the long game. I don't know what the legislature will do. They have not shown that they are committed to this change.

    But I know that our movement is committed to this change and that, eventually, we will see the change we want to see. And we have — we have already seen some changes thanks to organizations like ours and our partners. If we weren't there, there would be no voice for common sense.

    And so I have hope. I have hope in the movement and in our communities.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Nicole Golden from Texas Gun Sense, thank you very much for joining us.

    And, again, I'm terribly sorry about the reason we are talking today.

  • Nicole Golden:

    Thank you.

    And our hearts are with the Uvalde families tonight.

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