Rick Perry on gun violence: only prayer can stop it

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The murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month capped the worst year in modern U.S. history for gun rampages. While the collective heartache kept the National Rifle Association quiet for a week, Gov. Rick Perry couldn't keep silent for so long. Three days after the Newtown, Conn., shooting, Perry offered his prescription to a Tea Party gathering in Tarrant County. We need to arm school teachers and administrators, he said, a policy point the NRA would later echo as it blamed mass shootings on video games like Mortal Kombat.

Wednesday President Obama announced his own policy reforms to curb gun violence, calling on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban and mandate background checks for all gun buyers (including those who purchase firearms at gun shows). And true to form, Perry responded in pure brain-wrinkling fashion, blaming gun violence on “demons,” the “evil prowling this world” and our “online fascinations,” insisting that only prayer, not laws, can end gun violence. Meanwhile state Attorney General Greg Abbott took a more glib approach, launching a new ad campaign Wednesday appealing to New Yorkers who may feel their rights have been threatened by gun restrictions recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owners looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity,” reads one ad.

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Naturally, this debate's a hairy one in gun-lovin' Texas. Conservative bloggers have already jumped on a crisis averted here in San Antonio last month at the Santikos Mayan Palace 14 theater, where an off-duty Bexar County sheriff's sergeant disarmed a crazed gunman who chased and shot at patrons. The case, to conservative commentators, not only proves the common anti-gun control argument that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but is also evidence of a sinister pro-gun control media bias that ignored the story. (That last point is demonstrably false. See national coverage of the case here and here). There's the easy comparison to the Aurora, Colo., shooting. But after the fact that both took place in theaters, the similarities end. We really don't know much about the Mayan Palace theater shooter. At this point authorities will only say shooter Jesus Manuel Garcia was angry after a breakup with his girlfriend, that he legally purchased the .40 caliber Glock pistol he wielded, and that he had no past involvement with law enforcement. Local media, including the Current, have asked to speak with Bexar County sheriff's Sgt. Lisa Castellano, who was working as a theater security guard when she cornered and disarmed Garcia, to get a better idea of what happened. Officials won't let her speak publicly due to the active investigation. But new information about Aurora theater shooter James Holmes came out of his Colorado court hearing earlier this month, indicating that massacre was not sparked by an emotional snap, but was rather calculated and methodical. An ATF agent testified Holmes went on a buying spree in the months before the shooting, purchasing pistols, an AR-15 assault rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition, a shotgun, body armor, and bomb-making materials. He also used high-capacity clips, including one that held up to 100 rounds. Both points appear to tie in with common items on the gun-control agenda: banning high-capacity magazines, and getting the feds to track bulk ammunition sales. But Texas' top politicos aren't engaging the gun control debate on that level. They aren't digging into the weeds and explaining why improvements to the existing system for background checks on gun buyers, lifting the federal ban on research into gun violence, and boosting access to mental health services in schools erode constitutionally protected gun rights (all points advocated by Obama today). Instead, we've got a governor who blames gun violence on demons and claims laws can't address it, effectively disengaging from whatever policy debate should arise from these alarmingly frequent shootings. Meanwhile, we've got a state AG who tries to use the gun-control/gun-rights debate to poach residents from another state. Stay classy, Texas. - Michael Barajas

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