The Uvalde Paradox 

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Dr. Malcolm Cross

The Uvalde mass shooting has produced more demands for gun control and even the passage by Congress of a bipartisan gun control bill.  Yet reports on the shooting show that We the People must also be able to better arm and protect ourselves as well.

On Sunday, July 17, the committee established by the Texas House of Representatives to investigate the Uvalde shootings released its preliminary report, Read the full report on the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas – CNN.  

The report catalogs the numerous failures of both school authorities and law enforcement to adequately protect the students and teachers at the Robb Elementary School.  For example, it says that school faculty and staff frequently left open and unlocked doors which should have been locked, and failed to maintain door locks anyway, making several locks ineffective.  It also says that school personnel had been taking a more relaxed attitude to the possibility of trouble in light of several false alarms concerning dangers from escaped illegal immigrants which never proved as serious as initially thought.

Even worse was the breakdown in procedures which the police should have followed in response to reports of the shooter on the loose in the school.  All in all, 376 law enforcement officers from 23 different federal, state, and local agencies converged at Robb Elementary.  But nobody was in effective command, and chaos, confusion and a breakdown in communications due to faulty equipment hampered police efforts to cope with the shooter.  

Moreover, the report claims that the responders’ priorities were skewed.  It said “All officers must acknowledge that stopping the killing of innocent lives is the highest priority in active shooter response, and all offices must be willing to risk their lives without hesitation.”  But “[a]t Robb Elementary law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.”

It should be noted that in some instances the report exonerated the police of accusations of ineffectiveness made in previous reports.  For example, the report dismisses as false the account that a police officer saw the shooter enter the building but felt unable to take him out in the absence of permission from his superiors (the man entering the building was a coach).  The report also speculates that most of the murdered children died almost immediately with the shooter’s first wave of gunfire.  If true, the 73-minute delay between the arrival of the first responders and the breaching of the classrooms where the shooter was hiding did not cause the deaths of most of the victims.  But the report does raise the possibility that a few of the victims died of wounds which could have been effectively treated had there been less delay in stopping the shooter and securing medical attention for the victims.

So what can be made of this report?  Personally, I’m not able to assess the fairness of the accusations of incompetence and dereliction of duty against the police in Uvalde (or anywhere else).  Having graduated from Leadership Stephenville and the Citizens Police Academic, and having served on the Stephenville City Council’s Public Safety Committee, I’ve developed a high opinion of the police in general and Stephenville’s police in particular.  Moreover, I can’t begin to comprehend dangers and challenges the police actually encountered at Uvalde, or encounter every day on the job, for that matter.  I’m especially skeptical of the report’s comments on the allegedly skewed priorities of the police.  Are the report’s assertions legitimate?  Or does the report reflect Monday morning quarterbacking by those who don’t understand the dangers the police were facing?

But whether the police could have done better, one point seems clear:  Protection against an armed assailant may be necessary, but not always effective.  As noted, 376 officers from 23 federal, state, and local agencies converged at Robb Elementary, but were not able to stop the gunman for over an hour.  How, then, can We the People be expected to rely on law enforcement personnel for assistance, no matter how speedy their response or effective in their actions?  Should we not be able to arm ourselves for self-protection should the police be unable to arrive in time to save us from whatever dangers we’re confronting.  Given that presidents and other prominent politicians, athletes, entertainers, etc. frequently have entourages of armed guards, can we not arm ourselves as well?

Actually, many advocates of gun control maintain that they don’t want to disarm us; they simply want to implement “common sense” measures to keep guns out of the hands of likely mass murderers-to-be.  And I actually support some of these measures, including more effective background checks, increased age limits for purchasers, and—reluctantly–red flag laws, if they can be implemented with due regard for civil liberties.

But all forms of gun control are flawed in this sense:  In response to the actions of those who misuse guns, gun control measures penalize the many innocent gun owners and would-be gun owners by making the acquisition of guns more difficult.  No gun control measure, no matter how well-meaning and well-thought out it may be should significantly increase the difficulty of the innocent in trying to protect themselves.  After all, no matter how well law enforcement could have acted to save the teachers and children at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary, the deaths of the unarmed still would have occurred at the hands of the armed.  We the People must be able to rely on law enforcement for protection.  But in the absence of law enforcement We the People must also be able to rely on ourselves.  And for that, we may need guns.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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