AUSTIN, TX — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday blamed violent video games for the El Paso mass shooting the day before that left 20 dead and more than two dozen injured.
In an interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” Patrick went so far as to call for for federal action to be taken against the video game industry: “How long are we going to ignore — at the federal level particularly — where they can do something about the video game industry?” Patrick asked. “In this manifesto that we believe is from the shooter, this manifesto where he talks about living out his super soldier fantasy on Call of Duty. We know the video game industry is bigger than the movie and music industry combined.”
The shooter arrested after the massacre in El Paso made a single reference to the video game “Call of Duty” in an otherwise lengthy and rambling manifesto posted online in which he expresssed an aversion to immigrants. “Remember: it is not cowardly to pick low hanging fruit,” the shooter wrote in his anti-immigrant screed. “AKA don’t attack heavily guarded areas to fulfill your super soldier COD fantasy. Attack low security targets.”
The lion’s share of the shooter’s manifesto focuses not on video games but on his hatred of immigrants and fears of a perceived “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. While acknowledging the massacre was “obviously a hate crime” targeting immigrants, Patrick rejected the idea of some measure of firearms regulation as a solution to rising gun violence.
Instead, Patrick focused on the common link to social media he said mass shooters often use to telegraph their violent deeds, along with some killers’ references to video games ahead of attacks.
“Why are we allowing young people or anyone to go to a website to learn and be killed and be praised to put this manifesto out?” Patrick asked the “Fox & Friends” hosts. “Why are we allowing our children… watching video games? Again, larger than the music industry and the movie industry combined. Are we ignoring that? This was maybe a video game to this evil demon. A video game to him. He has no sense of humanity, no sense of life.
“He wanted to be a super soldier, for his Call of Duty game, so we need to look at all of this and who we are and as long as we continue to only praise God and look at God on a Sunday morning and kick him out of the town square at our schools the other six days of the week, what do we expect? What do we expect? There’s no excuse for this. We condemn it totally but as a nation we have to look at this and leave all of the politics out of it.”
In a recap of his conjecture, Patrick told Fox: “We’ve always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.”
While espousing his own theories on the El Paso mass shooting, Patrick explicitly warned members of the left-wing group Antifa to refrain from visiting Texas to protest. “Stay out of El Paso,” he said on Fox. “Stay out of TX … scratch TX off your map and don’t come in … it is not the time and place for them to come at any time… stay out of TX.”
Conservative lawmakers in Texas are loath to attribute the easy availability of firearms to mass shootings. In the hours following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott in a press conference offered thoughts and prayers to victims and their families while suggesting blame for the incident on mental illness.
“I can tell you that perhaps the most profound and agreed-upon issue that came out of legislative hearings on school shooting was the need for the state and for society to do a better job of dealing with challenging mental health-based issues,” Abbott said. “We know that’s a component … probably … to any type of shooting that takes place.”
And yet, Abbott invoked the specter of mental illness link before police had even ascertained the mental health of the suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crucius. Since the tragedy in El Paso, neither local police nor FBI agents have publicly invoked mental illness as a contributing factor, focusing instead on his hate-filled screed in finding a motive.
Abbott organized a series of hearings on gun violence in the aftermath of a high school shooting on May 18, 2018, that left ten people dead, including eight students and two teachers. The shooter in that incident was later identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzia, 17, who attended the the school.
Related story: Gov. Abbott Schedules Roundtable Gun Talk At Texas Capitol
For his part, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas outright dismissed the idea of exploring gun control measures as a step to mitigate violence. He dismissed concerns over gun availability in the wake of the latest mass shooting in Texas as nothing more than political exploitation for partisan gain.
“Focusing on law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights solves nothing,” he wrote on Twitter. “We need to treat these crimes as problems to be solved, rather than one to be exploited for partisan political gain.”
Cornyn likened the scourge of mass shootings to the problem of homelessness. “Sadly, there are some issues like homelessness and these shootings where we simply don’t have all the answers,” he wrote.
Patrick in years past has also decried illegal immigration, positing that migrants crossing the southern border introduce disease into the U.S.: “They are bringing Third World diseases with them,” Patrick said, citing “tuberculosis, malaria, polio and leprosy,” he once said, even though health experts say there hasn’t been a case of detected in the Western Hemisphere for decades.
Others making such claims include Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). “Our schools cannot handle this influx, we don’t even know what all diseases they have,” he said a few years back. But Centers for Disease Control data contradicts such assertions. After an influx of unaccompanied children to the U.S. a few years ago, CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant told the Austin Chronicle immigrants don’t pose a public risk painted by some politicians.
“CDC’s support includes consultation on medical screening and providing disease surveillance screening tools, which is being directed by the Administration for Children and Families,” Grant said, before offering: “We can state that CDC does not believe the children arriving at U.S. borders pose a public health risk to the general public or U.S. population.”
In light of some politicians’ incendiary talk on the dual matters, some lawmakers are now wondering if anti-immigrant speech coupled with pro-gun rhetoric calling for unfettered access to firearms may be more linked to violence than video games or mental illness. In terms of immigration, some wonder if demonizing immigrants serves only to exacerbate existing racial and ethnic tensions.
The shooter in El Paso traveled more than 650 miles from just outside Dallas to exact his rage, fueled by anti-immigration ideology in arriving in a Texas city where 80 percent of the population is Hispanic. Five of those killed were Mexican nationals, according to reports.
In the aftermath of the shooting in El Paso, Texas, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) on social media shared a past tweet by Abbott urging Texans to buy more guns after he learned the Lone Star State lagged behind California in terms of per capita ownership of guns.
“I’m EMBARRASSED,” Abbott wrote in his 2015 tweet, using all capital letters for emphasis. “Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans. @NRA.”
While not placing indirect blame on Abbott or any other lawmakers for Saturday’s violence, the congressman suggested such strident endorsement of gun ownership was anti-intuitive as the state seeks to mitigate violence.
Abbott campaigned aggressively for passage of the state’s “open carry” law allowing for the public toting of firearms as an expression of support for the 2nd Amendment, a measure that took effect on Jan. 1, 2016. By summer of that year, a companion “campus carry” measure became law, enabling gun owners to carry their guns into state-funded colleges. In May 2017, Abbott signed Senate Bill 16 that drastically reduced licensing fees associated with purchasing a gun, making it easier for residents to secure firearms.
He’s also been strident in his opposition to illegal immigration, at one point stripping Travis County of needed state funding to agencies unrelated to immigration. Abbott took the unusual action as punitive measure for what he perceives as a more relaxed attitude in the capital city of Austin in terms of local law enforcement officials helping federal agents deport undocumented residents.
Donald Trump’s incendiary attacks on immigrants also was invoked by the shooter in El Paso as part of his online manifesto. But, like Abbott, Donald Trump also suggested mental illness was the likely overriding factor in the wake of the El Paso massacre.
“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said on Monday during his first substantive remarks on dual mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. He called shooters “mentally ill monsters,” but also referenced video games as a possible influencing factor. He made vague references to somehow tying measures at preventing future violence to an immigration reform bill, even though the shooter in El Paso is a native-born Caucasian.
Trump also blamed the media as bearing indirect responsibility for the violence — not his own incendiary remarks demonizing immigrants:
Trump made similar remarks after the mass shooting of parishioners at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017, a rural community of around 400 people southeast of San Antonio.
“I think that mental health is a problem here,” Trump said after the church shooting that claimed the lives of 26 people and injured 20 others in Santa Fe, Texas. “Based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual with a lot of problems over a very long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation.”
The victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting ranged in ages from 5 to those in their 70s. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level,” Trump opined at the time. “It’s a very sad event. These are great people at a very, very sad event, but that’s the way I view it.”
Trump also has made numerous inflammatory remarks against undocumented residents, classifying their numbers as part of an invasion — the same rhetoric employed by the El Paso shooter in his anti-immigrant manifesto.
Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion! I have been there numerous times – The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January” class=”redactor-linkify-object”>https://twitter.com/realDonald… 11, 2019
At a Florida political rally in May, Trump decried legal protections of which migrants can avail themselves while reiterating his goal of building a wall along the southern border. “How to you stop these people?” he asked rhetorically. “Shoot them!” came the reply of an audience member, leading Trump to joke: “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” he said with a chuckle. “Only in the Panhandle,” he repeated to laughs and cheers from those in the crowd.
The day after the El Paso shooting at a shopping center, another one outside a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, left nine people dead and more injured — the majority of the victims black. Less than a week ago, another mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in its namesake California city left four dead (including the gunman) and a dozen injured on July 28.
As a result of such recent gun violence, there now have been more mass shootings in 2019 than there have been days. At least 251 mass shootings have taken place in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive website that tracks shooting incidents where four or more people are shot.
Read the gun violence data.
Texas Gun Sense, a group that “advocates for common sense, evidence-based policies to reduce gun injuries and deaths,” as described on its website, has scheduled a rally at the state Capitol on Monday, Aug. 5, in response to the El Paso shooting, organizers said in an emailed press advisory. The rally is scheduled to take place in the vicinity of a blood drive organized by AT&T and Walmart on the Capitol grounds from 9 am. to 1 p.m.
“Texas Gun Sense will be calling on Texas residents to contact their state elected officials, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen as well as their local elected Texas representative and Texas senator to say: We expect you to act immediately to promote public safety by addressing easy access to firearms,” officials wrote.