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Texas Lawmakers Blame Video Games, Mental Illness For Shooting

Patch logo Patch 8/4/2019 Tony Cantu
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AUSTIN, TX — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday blamed violent video games for the El Paso, Texas, 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 exprsssed 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.”

While espousing his own theories on the shooting, Patrick explicitly warned members of the left-wing group Antifa to stay out of 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 loathe 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

Other lawmakers are now wondering if anti-immigrant rhetoric by some politicians coupled with calls for unfettered access to firearms may be more linked to violence than video games or mental illness. 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 to emphasize his point. "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 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.

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 demonizing of immigrants also was invoked by the shooter in El Paso as part of his online manifesto.

The day after the El Paso shooting at a shopping center, another one outside a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, left ten people dead and more injured. As a result, there have now been more mass shootings in 2019 than there have been days. There have been at least 251 mass shootings 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.

To see the data on gun violence, click here.

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