Gov. Greg Abbott says tougher gun laws 'not a real solution' to ending mass shootings

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Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas does not need to adopt tougher gun laws in the wake of Tuesday's mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers were killed.

He said adding gun restrictions is “not a real solution” to ending mass shootings and that calls to do so oversimplify the issue. Instead, Abbott said state leaders should focus on measures to improve school safety and mental health care in the state.

“There are ‘real’ gun laws in Chicago. There are ‘real’ gun laws in New York. There are ‘real’ gun laws in California,” Abbott said during a news conference at Uvalde High School. “I hate to say this, but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas. We need to realize that people who think, ‘Well, maybe if we just implement tougher gun laws it’s going to solve it.’ Chicago and LA and New York disprove that thesis.”

Live updates Wednesday: Guns purchased legally, all deaths occurred in one classroom

“If you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution,” he added.

Abbott met with other state leaders at the high school Wednesday to provide an update to the public about the ongoing investigation into the shooting in the town, which marks the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history and the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Beto O'Rourke interrupts press conference

But the event was soon derailed when Democrat Beto O’Rourke entered the auditorium and confronted Abbott about the Uvalde shooting, pointing at the two-term governor and yelling, “This is on you.”

After Abbott gave his initial remarks, O’Rourke quickly approached the stage and started addressing Abbott and the other officials gathered to speak.

“You said this was not predictable, but this is totally predictable when you choose not to do anything,” O’Rourke said, continuing to gesture at Abbott. “You are doing nothing; you are offering us nothing.”

The Democrat’s comments were soon drowned out by other officials on stage, including Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin who shouted at O’Rourke, “You’re a sick son of a bitch to come to a deal like this and make a political issue!”

More context: Who is Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, the politician who yelled at Beto O'Rourke

Uvalde police officers then escorted O'Rourke from the auditorium.

O’Rourke is running for governor against Abbott, who is seeking a third term. He made gun control a feature of his failed presidential bid after the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, proposing a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons.

Abbott was joined on stage by a number of Republican officeholders, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton; U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio, and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. State Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde, also was at the news conference.

Abbott emphasizes mental health

Anger over the state’s lax gun control laws bubbled over on social media, as Democrats, civil rights groups and others called for enhanced gun control measures.

But Republican leaders in Texas, who have resisted such calls for action on gun safety measures in the wake of previous mass shootings in Texas, remained steadfast in their opposition to adopting any gun restrictions. Last year, lawmakers passed and Abbott signed several measures loosening gun laws, including legislation that allows people to carry a handgun without obtaining a license.

Uvalde shooting: Photos and videos show scene at Robb Elementary School

During Wednesday’s news conference, Abbott and other Republican leaders largely dodged questions from reporters about whether the state took enough action

“To be clear, we all understand our work is not done,” Abbott said. “We will continue to discuss with legislators about all the potential avenues and pathways that we can take to make sure that schools will be even safer going forward.”

Abbott emphasized the need to put mental health at the forefront in conversations about recovery and prevention of future tragedies.

More: 19 elementary students died in the Uvalde school shooting. Here's what we know

But his remarks regarding the role of mental health in the Uvalde shooting were contradictory.

Abbott initially said “there was no known mental health history of the gunman” and no “meaningful forewarning of this crime.” The shooter, identified as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old Uvalde resident, was killed by a responding Border Patrol officer at the school.

More: Trump, Abbott, Cruz scheduled to speak at NRA convention in Houston this weekend

Then Abbott said he spoke with community leaders and local law enforcement after the shooting and asked them, “What is the problem here?”

“They were straightforward and emphatic,” Abbott said. “They said we have a problem with mental health illness in this community.”

Uvalde is a city of about 16,000 people about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The shooting came four years after a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area.

More: Uvalde sits on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. What to know about the town, county

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: After Uvalde school shooting, governor says gun laws 'not real solution'