Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Opinion | Greg Abbott was booed at a memorial for the Uvalde shooting. He deserved it.


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If any politician deserved to be booed at the memorial in Uvalde, Tex., on Sunday, it was Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Texas Republican, champion of reckless gun ownership, shamefully stopped off at a fundraiser hours after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers. (Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is now off the hook for the most cringeworthy attendance at a fundraiser — on his way home from the hospital after his wife gave birth.)

Abbott’s performance only went downhill from there. In his first news conference after the bloodbath, he spread erroneous information about the performance of law enforcement. It later emerged that it took more than an hour for police officers to stop the gunman. Worse, Abbott regurgitated the stupid idea that the solution to school shootings is to arm teachers — who he apparently believes would be more effective and faster at responding to an active shooter than trained police.

Abbott chose not to attend the National Rifle Association gathering in Houston on Friday as he had planned. Instead, he sent a video message insisting no law enforcement could have stopped the gunman. Was a video appearance supposed to be better than showing up in person?

One would be hard-pressed to think of a more tone-deaf, counterproductive and insulting performance from a politician. And so when Abbott arrived in Uvalde on Sunday, voters let him have it. The Daily Beast reported that “some members of a gathered crowd began booing and heckling the politician … with Newsweek reporting that one man can be heard saying, ‘We need change, governor’ as other onlookers give him a thumbs down.” Multiple outlets picked up the voice of a man shouting, “Shame on you, Abbott!”

Abbott, like so many other NRA supplicants, rarely confronts protesters. The lackeys of the gun lobby generally stay far from mainstream media interviewers who might ask pesky questions, such as “If gun laws don’t work, why did the murderer in Uvalde wait until his 18th birthday to purchase a gun?”

Do not assume that voters are as insensitive, close-minded and impervious to reason as the politicians. Even those who have routinely cast ballots for NRA stooges might be moved by personal experience. Mass shootings devastate communities and can shift the political dynamic.

As The Post recounted: “Three weeks after 17 people were gunned down in 2018 inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill that included provisions banning weapons sales to those younger than 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on most long-gun purchases, and creating a ‘red flag’ law allowing authorities to confiscate weapons from people deemed to constitute a public threat.” Florida Republican politicians take a backseat to no one when it comes to thinking up excuses to do nothing, but personal experience and voter outrage matter greatly.

If national gun reform remains stalled thanks to Senate Republicans’ obstruction, it is hard to imagine that all Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislative bodies will remain impervious to public anger. Voters — especially parents, teachers, students and police groups — must insist on Florida-type legislation in every state. Grass-roots organizers should peacefully hound the NRA’s defenders nonstop until they act.

If Republicans resist the voters’ demands for reasonable gun reform, voters should denounce them. They should ridicule their lame distractions (fewer doors in schools? bulletproof backpacks?) and assail their pretension to be “pro-life.” And then they should run them out of office in November.

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