Few calls for reform after shooting in gun-loving Texas

Santa Fe (United States) (AFP) –


February's school massacre in Parkland, Florida inspired students to launch a spirited gun control movement. Similar calls for reform are unlikely to resonate following a deadly shooting in Texas, where support for gun rights is paramount.

When a teen student stormed into Santa Fe High School on Friday and opened fire on his classmates and teachers, killing 10 people and wounding 10 more, it was the latest explosion of gun violence at America's schools.

But students and parents in this tight-knit rural community outside Houston said the rampage at their local school will not convince them to support stricter gun laws.

"No, I think if he wanted to shoot the school he would have done it" regardless of the restriction levels on firearms, Tori White, a junior at Santa Fe High, told AFP about the suspect, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

In Parkland, classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a 19-year-old slaughtered 14 students and three adult staff members, have found themselves in the spotlight, as their call for stricter gun laws went national.

In Santa Fe, "It's not going to happen," Jordan Flores, who graduated from Santa Fe in 2015, said as he and two friends brought donuts to state troopers posted at the high school's front gate.

The gun culture is so strong here, he said, that when reports emerged of a lockdown at the same school earlier this year, he and friends rushed to help -- armed to the hilt.

"We showed up, I had a .40 on my hip, a 12-gauge on my back, he had an AK. We were ready," Flores said.

Blaming guns for the actions of individuals goes against the grain, he said.

"It's outside factors" that are to blame, including bad parenting, the pressures from social media, and mental health issues, Flores added.

Sprawling and conservative Texas, a southern state bordering Mexico, has among the most permissive firearm laws in the United States, where a third of children live in a household with at least one firearm.

The state's Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, is proud of his pro-gun position.

"I'm EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA," he memorably tweeted in 2015.

"Let's pick up the pace Texans."

- 'Gun racks in our trucks' -

The state has been the scene of several ghastly mass shootings over the years. Last November a gunman killed 26 worshippers at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs.

But residents of Santa Fe pointed to that tragedy -- when an armed citizen chased down the attacker -- as an example of the theory perpetuated by the National Rifle Association: that a good guy with a gun is often the best way to stop criminals.

"I don't think gun reform is going to be an issue at all in our community or in Texas as a whole," said Geoff Anderson, a private investigator whose son is a senior at Santa Fe High School.

Authorities ought to focus more on mental health issues and arming school personnel, rather than calling for limits on the proliferation of legal weapons, residents said.

One father of a Santa Fe High School sophomore recalled how guns were a fabric of life in the area since back when he grew up.

"We students had gun racks in our trucks. My friends would go hunting in these woods before school," said the father, who asked not to be named.

"It's not the guns."

Arguing the other side on Saturday outside the high school were Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessie was slain in an Aurora, Colorado theater shooting nearly six years ago.

These days they live in a camper, traveling from state to state counselling students and parents after the latest tragedy.

So far they have been to the scene of nine mass shootings.

"Isn't that pathetic? Isn't that sad?" asked Sandy Phillips, who wore a button bearing a photograph of her late daughter.

"When you have 300 million guns on the streets, it's pretty easy to have mass shootings," she said.

"To say that we don't have a gun problem, that's insanity."