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West Texas Mass Shooting Provokes Fresh Calls for Stricter Gun Laws

At least seven people were killed and several more were injured on Saturday in a mass shooting near Odessa, Texas.

Police cars and tape block off a crime scene outside the Cinergy Odessa movie theater where a gunman was shot and killed on August 31, 2019, in Odessa, Texas.

Gun control advocates and Democratic politicians swiftly demanded that Congress take action after at least seven people were killed and several more were injured in a mass shooting in Texas Saturday.

As the details of the shooting began to emerge, Ernest Coverson, campaign manager of Amnesty International USA’s End Gun Violence campaign, said in a statement late Saturday, “On yet another weekend, this country is reeling from carnage that could have been prevented.”

“Enough is enough,” added Coverson. “We need the government to take action in passing common sense gun safety reforms that make everyone safer. By prioritizing guns over people, the U.S. is putting entire communities at risk.”

The suspect—a male in his 30s, according to Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke—was chased and killed by law enforcement outside a movie theater, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

The terrifying chain of events began when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car mid-Saturday afternoon on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said. Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver “pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots” toward the patrol car stopping him. The gunshots struck one of two troopers inside the patrol car, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled and continued shooting. Two other police officers were shot before the suspect was killed. The condition of the three law enforcement officers injured was not immediately released.

Gerke said there were at least 21 civilian shooting victims. He said at least five people died. He did not say whether the shooter was included among those five dead, and it was not clear whether he was including the five dead among the at least 21 civilian shooting victims.

Sunday morning, Odessa police updated the death toll to seven and said that one victim remains in “life-threatening” condition, but still have not released the suspect’s name or possible motive.

NewsWest 9, a West Texas-based news station, reported that a “15-year-old Odessa High School student was among those killed” and a “17-month-old was airlifted to Lubbock after being shot in the face.”

Responding to that local report on Twitter, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote: “A baby shot in the face. How much death and destruction must we tolerate before officials take action to limit access to deadly assault weapons? Sending prayers to the victims and survivors of this horrific tragedy.”

Other advocates for stricter gun laws specifically called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), along with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

March For Our Lives—which formed in the wake of a February 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida and recently released a comprehensive plan to address gun violence in the United States—tweeted a reminder to McConnell late Saturday: “Recess is over in 9 days.”

Democratic congressional leaders and candidates seeking the party’s nomination for president in the 2020 race were among those to condemn the violence and call for immediate federal action.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both took to Twitter to pressure McConnell to take up House-approved legislation that would expand background checks. Noting that the West Texas shooting is part of a broader trend, Pelosi wrote that “every day, the gun violence epidemic inflicts a devastating toll in communities across America.”

The Texas shooting also elicited responses from presidential primary candidates—including former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden as well as Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We’ve already lost far too many to gun violence—Congress must act now,” tweeted Warren.

“Enough is enough,” wrote Sanders. “We must take on the NRA and end the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”

Less than 24 hours after the latest tragedy, as The Hill reported, “a slate of new Texas laws that loosen regulations for firearms went into effect Sunday after a month in which the state experienced multiple mass shootings.”

“The bills, which were passed during the 86th Texas legislature, ease restrictions surrounding access to guns on school grounds and churches, among other provisions,” according to The Hill.

The laws follow not only the Odessa shooting but also a massacre in early August, when a gunman who allegedly authored an anti-immigrant manifesto posted online killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Citing President Donald Trump’s comments and policies targeting immigrants, some critics called that shooting “Trump-inspired terrorism.”

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