TRIGGER WARNING: Article mentions death, violence
Among the victims of the mass shooting in Texas on Saturday that claimed the lives of seven people was a 17-month-old girl who was shot in the face yet managed to survive. Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination told CNN’s State of the Union that the empty rhetoric deployed by politicians, who usually send “thoughts and prayers” after attacks, was no longer adequate.
The shooting spree in Odessa and Midland ended with seven people dead, who ranged in age from 15 to 57. A 17-month-old toddler was among the 22 people who were injured. The girl has been identified as Anderson Davis. She’ll undergo surgery today for her injuries, which include shrapnel in her chest, a hole through her bottom lip and tongue and damage to her front teeth, according to her mother. An Odessa police spokesman said at least one person was still in critical condition. The 17-month-old had been airlifted to Lubbock for treatment.
Texas’ governor, Greg Abbott, who sent a text message to the child’s mother, said, “Thank you all for praying. This is all of our worst nightmares but thank God she’s alive and relatively well. Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play. We are thanking God for that. For now, it’s pretty bad … it doesn’t seem like her jaw was hit, just lip, teeth and tongue. She’s having surgery tomorrow. We’re thanking God for healing her.”
The shooting started after a man was stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a turn at 3pm on Saturday. The man then opened fire and took off, carjacking a mail truck and embarking on a shooting spree in which he targeted people at random. This is the second mass shooting in Texas in a month. On average, there are 300 mass shootings a year in the US. 51 people have died from mass gun violence in the month of August alone.
In Texas, eight new gun laws took effect on Sunday, considerably loosening already lenient gun controls. O’Rourke has called for universal background checks on all gun sales, a ban on the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles and a mandatory buy-back of semi-automatic weapons.
The suspect in Saturday’s rampage has been described as a white male in his 30s. He was ultimately shot and killed in a parking lot outside a movie theater between Odessa and Midland, more than 10 miles from where he was first stopped by police. After being pulled over on Interstate 20, the driver “pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots,” hitting one of two troopers. The gunman fled and two other officers were shot.
On Sunday, the Odessa police chief, Michael Gerke, said “no definite answer as to motives or reason” was known. He said the gunman wouldn’t be named because he was “not going to give him any notoriety.” One woman, Shauna Saxton, said she was driving with her husband and grandson in Odessa and stopped at a light when they heard loud shots. “I looked over my shoulder to the left and the gold car pulled up and the man was there, and he had a very large gun and it was pointing at me,” she told TV station KOSA. “I started honking my horn. I started swerving and we got a little ahead of him and then for whatever reason the cars in front of me kind of parted,” she said, crying.
In Washington, Donald Trump once again told reporters that mass shootings are caused almost exclusively by the mental illness of the shooter and not by the availability of weapons, a statement that has been refuted by experts. Trump claims a “package” of measures is being prepared to submit to Congress but didn’t elaborate. Shortly after the El Paso shootings, the president said he was eager to implement “very meaningful background checks,” but he later backed down.