O’Rourke reacts to domestic terrorism in his home town, a little math on what drives mass shootings, Ryan reacts to shootings in his home state, and one more Texas Republican announces his retirement.

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Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

O’Rourke reacts to domestic terrorism in his home town

Our first story today, horribly, is about the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. It is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism, because the shooter allegedly published a manifesto before the attack, making his intent clear. Not only did the manifesto lay out the murderer’s specific interest in killing people of Mexican descent, it also talked about the Democratic party itself and even the first debates. So, guess what, this is Election Ride Home news and we are talking about this.

We happen to have, in this primary field, a candidate who is from El Paso, Texas. That is, of course, former Representative Beto O’Rourke. After the shooting, he left the campaign trail and headed straight for El Paso. While he was ON THE PLANE, he met the son of one of the women who was shot in the chest—that guy was heading home to try to take care of his mom. At that man’s request, O’Rourke went with him to the hospital and met his mother, Rosemary, who had two punctured lungs. There, O’Rourke learned that Rosemary’s mother had also been shot in the stomach in the same mass shooting. She provided first aid to others on the scene before she collapsed. Oh, and then there was Rosemary’s sister, who was also shot. The reason we know all this is that O’Rourke told the story at a vigil in El Paso on Sunday evening, as the sun was setting. He also spoke of the Wal-Mart worker he met who had been standing in line for hours, waiting to give blood, just so he could do SOMETHING.

So I think it’s appropriate that we listen to some of what O’Rourke has said about this. He’s from that city, he’s there now, and he is speaking up. Okay, our first clip is brief, and although I don’t have full audio of the question he was asked before he said this response, this is the text of the question: “Is there anything in your mind that the president can do now to make this any better?”Listen to his response.

[CLIP-OROURKE-WTF]

For context, that came AFTER the vigil, when O’Rourke was trying to find his wife and get to his car, and was stopped by the reporter. Now let’s rewind to that vigil. He gave a thirteen-minute speech, there’s a link to that in the show notes. And here’s a bit of audio from O’Rourke as he wraps up. Note that he is explicitly calling for specific gun control policies here, and note the audience reaction. Listen in:

[CLIP-OROURKE-VIGIL]

And here’s one last clip from O’Rourke, from an appearance this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. In this one, there is an audio drop-out in the middle, and I’ll just prepare you for that now—the word that drops out is “racism.” Listen:

[CLIP-OROURKE-JOE]

Okay, so let’s stop the clips and look at the broader landscape. A statement that comes to mind for me at this moment is from Howard Zinn, who wrote a book called You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. What that means, metaphorically, is that as society moves—that’s the train—someone is the conductor. And you can tell where the train is going—you can tell whether that place is broadly where you want to go. Now, you can choose to stay on that train. You can choose to jump off the train. You can choose to try to stop that train, or redirect where it’s going. But simply to remain neutral is not a morally defensible option, because you will end up where that train is going, which is a place of yet more carnage. O’Rourke, it appears, has decided to stop the train.

Right now, today, Congress is in recess. They’re not gonna do anything about this. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, has called for an emergency session of the Senate, but that would require the agreement of Senator Mitch McConnell, who is the Republican majority leader. McConnell has been happily sitting in first class on this train for quite a while now. I do hope that his heart changes. I would love to see an emergency session. I’d love to see the Senate do its job. Those are hopes, though—they’re not actions.

The newly Democratic House has already passed two bills, this session, dealing with background checks for guns, which could be approved in the Senate with a simple majority vote NOW. TODAY. Are they gonna do that? No. Why do I say that? Because they’ve already had this opportunity dozens of times, and every single time, they sit quietly in their seats on the train, sometimes writing letters of condolence, but mainly just sitting there.

The last time we really tried to deal with this was the bipartisan Toomey-Manchin bill, which would have expanded background checks. Yeah, and how did that turn out? Well, back in 2013 it was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. And it’s not like that was an era of no mass shootings—it was the year after Sandy Hook.

As I read this, President Trump just made a statement condemning White Supremacy and mentioning yet another mass shooting that happened this weekend in Dayton, Ohio. But Trump said it was Toledo. But, you know what? Who cares. That’s a distraction, and it’s immaterial to the problem at hand. Trump also blamed violent video games and the internet for this violence. More on that later in this show, because that BS is relevant to this discussion.

O’Rourke is right when he says to connect the dots. This president has had ample opportunity to deal with this issue specifically during his presidency, and he’s been driving the train for more than two and a half years now, much of that with complete control of both chambers of Congress. Did he do anything? No. He just kept driving that godforsaken train straight to what happened in El Paso.

In fact, in tweets this morning, he called for combining gun control legislation with immigration reform legislation. He wants those two things, which are two things we cannot get passed through this Senate, to be TIED TOGETHER, so that they can go ahead and NOT PASS TOGETHER, and this all just keeps happening, and everybody shrugs their shoulders and says, well, we tried, what can you do?

I’ll tell you what you can do. You have to choose. You have to do it today. You have to decide whether you’re gonna stay on this train, or whether you’re gonna go out there and do the work required to stop it. We have a path here. We can stop this train. We can then steer it in a direction of justice and safety. The way to do that, given our system of government, is to peacefully vote out this president a year from November, put sane people in the Senate—and I don’t care what party they’re from, as long as they give a damn about human lives. Then we pass legislation that will actually make a difference. I urge you: do not stay neutral. You’re on the train, and you’ve gotta choose.

A little math on what drives mass shootings

Now, let’s talk for just a moment about what drives mass shootings. We heard the president speak this morning about mental health, and violent video games, and a variety of other stuff as drivers of mass shootings. All right, is there data to back that up? In a word, no, but I think you saw that one coming. The good news is, there is overwhelming on what DOES drive mass shootings.

This morning, Adam Grant, a psychologist from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a simple tweet.

“The rate of mass shootings is not a function of mental health problems, video games, racial diversity, or violence and crime. It's a function of access to guns. And 130 studies across 10 countries show that gun safety legislation reduces deaths.”

He linked to a 2017 article in the New York Times, which includes a variety of rather astonishing graphs, showing the radical outlier that is the United States. Reading from that article by Max Fisher and Josh Keller:

“Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.
Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.
Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.”

The remainder of the article continues to get into specifics on mental health, violent video games, and so on, but the essential point here is that if you would like some actual math and research about whether gun control would actually reduce mass shootings—versus, say, changing violent media or the mental health care system—there’s an article in the show notes with some pretty good data.

Ryan reacts to shootings in his home state

As I mentioned, the mass shooting in El Paso wasn’t the only one this weekend. There was also a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in which a 24-year-old man armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle with a one-hundred-round drum magazine managed to kill 9 people in about one minute. One of those killed was his sister. The murderer left his shotgun in the car, and had spare ammunition with him, but did not live to use either.

Police were already patrolling the area at the time, and it took them about 20 seconds after the shooting started to reach the area. They managed to kill the shooter quickly, despite the fact that he was wearing body armor.

It’s unclear what that shooter’s specific motive was, and until there is some sense of that, it is NOT being investigated as an incident of domestic terrorism, unlike the El Paso shooting. It IS, obviously, a mass shooting, and one that was enabled by access both to an assault rifle and a high-capacity magazine.

Again, we have YET ANOTHER CANDIDATE IN THIS FIELD who is from the affected area, though not the specific city. Representative Tim Ryan represents Ohio’s 13th, which is across the state from Dayton, but still, he’s on Ohio guy, and Ohio is not exactly the world’s biggest state geographically. Ryan appeared on Fox News this morning, and I want to play a clip here from that appearance. Note that the very first words—the words are “the president”—are slightly cut off in the source audio here, but it’s fine after that. Listen in:

[CLIP-RYAN]

For context, when Ryan mentions that long drive, he’s referring to the OTHER mass shooting. That’s a reference to how the shooter in Texas apparently drove from a Dallas suburb roughly 600 miles to El Paso, presumably to get closer to the border.

I just want to reflect for a moment on the fact that the Democratic presidential primary field is so large and diverse that, given two major mass shootings, we actually have one candidate from the city in which it occurred, another from the state (that’s Julián Castro), and another from the state in which the other shooting occurred. What do we make of that, though? Do we say, oh, this is such a huge field, it’s inevitable? I don’t think so. I think we say that mass shootings are so common and so widely distributed in our country that we just happen to have three people running for president whose communities are differently affected by these incidents.

One more Texas Republican announces his retirement

Last up today, a quick one. Texas Representative Kenny Marchant announced today that he will retire after completing his current term in the House. That makes him the FOURTH Texas Republican House member to retire in the upcoming cycle.

The overall count of Republicans who will either retire or seek a different office in 2020 is now 11. Like I said last week when Will Hurd announced his retirement, this is just gonna keep happening, as candidates from both parties in vulnerable seats decide not to engage in the 2020 election.

I should also mention, there is a broad call today for O’Rourke to drop his presidential bid and immediately challenge John Cornyn for his Senate seat in Texas. While I haven’t heard O’Rourke directly comment on that idea, it is kind of reasonable, given where he stands in the overall presidential race. Meaning, I think it’s vastly more likely that he could win that Senate seat than the Presidency. Then again, I don’t think O’Rourke is sitting around today plotting a political strategy. I really do think he is out there in his community trying to figure out how to help.

And look, whether O’Rourke wants that Senate seat, or whether he feels he can do more running for national office, that’s a whole different question. And it’s up to him what he wants to do. But the larger theme emerging here, aside from, you know, the shootings, is that Texas is rapidly changing. It’s purple now and it might turn blue sooner than you’d think.

Outro

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Look, I know today’s show has been a bit more direct and somber than what we usually do, but, like I said, I have a strong position on this issue. I believe there is a clear truth here, and I refuse to give cover to those who deny that truth. And I’m not going to smooth it out in this outro either. This hurts. This is not okay, I am not okay with it, I don’t want this to keep happening in my country. I’m going to continue to sit with this and reflect on it. Good night, and may peace be with you.