Hate and violence tore through Dallas, Texas on Thursday night, in a reprehensible attack on law enforcement that sought to further divide Americans as they peacefully gathered to mourn lives lost earlier this week to deadly force. Five Dallas law enforcement officers were murdered, and seven more were injured, as were two civilians, by a sniper who carried out his attack during a nonviolent protest over the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. This horrific event specifically targeted police as they carried out their duty to protect the demonstrators.
As more details emerge, one fact is already clear. This gunman was motivated by hate, and hate is enabled and amplified by too-easy access to firearms. We see so many types of shootings each year committed by individuals acting out hateful agendas driven by a wide variety of factors: gang-related activity, ties to terrorist organizations, domestic abuse, and mass shootings of all kinds. These tragedies all have one significant thing in common: a gun in the hands of a person who wishes to do lethal harm to others. Guns escalate dangerous situations into deadly ones, and under our nation’s current gun laws, it’s too easy for that escalation to occur.
Our lawmakers have an urgent responsibility to change the bloody status quo by enacting smart gun laws that prevent deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands. After years of being stymied at the federal level, we were heartened to see leaders in Washington standing up for stronger gun laws after the shooting in Orlando. Those lawmakers now have every opportunity to continue the momentum and enact commonsense solutions that will help protect our communities from tragedy.
State lawmakers have seen great success getting such laws passed since the massacre at Sandy Hook, enacting more than 140 smart gun laws in 42 states, but there is still much work to be done, particularly in places like Texas. Texas received an F on our Gun Law State Scorecard and has continued to weaken its gun laws over the past year, when it became an open-carry state and enacted a law requiring that guns be allowed on college campuses. And Texas currently doesn’t require background checks for firearms transfers between unlicensed individuals or regulate transfer or possession of assault weapons or large capacity magazines—all commonsense measures that we know reduce gun violence and save lives.
We don’t have a panacea for stopping dangerous people from wanting to harm and kill. But we do know how to fix our gun laws in ways that will reduce the supply of dangerous guns, and close loopholes that let people who want to commit acts of hate obtain them.
Last night’s tragic shooting also comes as we still struggle to process the devastating deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The protesters in Dallas were seeking justice for two men who were subjected to brutal violence that disproportionately affects African-Americans. Although gun violence, racial bias, and police use of deadly force are complex issues, easy access to guns makes everything worse. As we have seen, guns escalate dangerous situations into deadly ones, and the proliferation of guns in America has made fear a part of everyday life for both citizens and police officers.
As we grapple with these difficult issues, we should not lose sight of our common enemy: hate and divisiveness, the fuel for the deadly actions that took the lives of police officers in Dallas and take the lives of more Americans every day. On this dark day, our hearts are with the families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa; the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile; and the families of the more than 117,000 other Americans shot every year.
To learn more about Texas gun laws, see our policy page.
Read our statement about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.