Op-Ed: The Uvalde Shooting Isn’t About Immigration, It’s About Gun Laws

UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 24: People mourn outside of the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The moments after such a tragic event — like the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — reactionary statements come as no surprise. A typical human reaction to despair is the desire to fix things, make them better. For that, we need a bad guy. Or better yet, a reason.

In those first few moments after the devastating news came out yesterday of the lives lost at Robb Elementary School, people’s “why” came as quickly as we learned the shooter’s name. The name pointed to an immigration problem, they – including elected officials – said. Within seconds of hearing a seemingly “foreign” name, people like GOP Representative Paul Gosar pushed an agenda on “illegal immigrants.” He wasn’t the only one, just one of the loudest ones. One verified account also took the time to tweet, “Did he cross the border illegally? Our nation has a serious national security crisis evolving. God help us,” to which they later wrote an update once learning that the shooter was a U.S. citizen. While immigration became the bait, it’s important to know that this is not about immigration. 

This is about gun laws. It always has been.

And not just because the racist, transphobic diatribe like Gosar’s is wrong. The shooter was born in North Dakota. He wasn’t an immigrant, much less an “illegal alien.” But because the most important thing we learned yesterday wasn’t where the shooter was born, it was how he carried out this massacre with two assault riffles he was able to legally purchase on the days after his 18th birthday. He was also able to buy hundreds of rounds of ammunition legally.  

Let’s consider all the things you cannot do at 18: Buy alcohol. Buy cigarettes. Rent a car. But you can walk into a store and buy AR-15-style rifles and enough ammunition to target a classroom filled with children or a supermarket with elderly customers, no questions asked. That’s the problem. That’s the thing that needs to change. And that’s precisely what a majority of lawmakers are not interested in working towards.

Yesterday, in Uvalde, a preventable tragedy occurred in an area mostly made up of people from our communities. We will hear more about the shooter in the next few days. We will see his face and his name. We will endlessly discuss the need for gun control regulation — any regulation. The last part is necessary, but focusing on talking less and pushing more for action. With Sandy Hook taking place ten years ago, this is beyond overdue. The rest, not so much. The face of the gunman, his name, changes nothing. So, we should not focus on it.

This is about gun laws. It always has been.

Instead, let us spend some time honoring the victims. Kids who had entire lives in front of them. Teachers, who these days are asked not just to educate, but to stand in front of bullets. For them, the conversation needs to turn to how to do better. At the very least, how to make it as difficult to buy an assault rifle as it is to purchase a cigarette or a bottle of alcohol.

Let’s forget the bad faith argument that this “isn’t about guns, it’s about people. There will always be individuals wanting to harm others. Let them try to do it with a hunting knife.” The fact that this problem has a straightforward solution makes it even more infuriating that there isn’t any political will to enact that solution. 

Here we are. We’ve been here before. And considering history, it wouldn’t be surprising to be here again. When is it enough? There isn’t an easy answer to that, but that doesn’t mean we should stop pushing for our elected representatives to answer the question and call them out when they’re trying to divert from the real problem.