Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after the governor, during an address surrounding a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, pointed to Chicago crime as an example of why tougher gun laws won't prevent violence.
The comments come amid calls around the U.S. for tighter restrictions on firearms following the mass shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead Tuesday.
In his remarks Wednesday, Abbott repeatedly talked about mental health struggles among Texas young people and brought up laws in New York, Chicago and California to argue that tougher gun laws don't prevent violence.
"I know that people like to try to oversimplify this. Let's talk about some real facts. And that is, there are, quote, 'real gun laws in Chicago.' There are, quote, 'real gun laws in New York.' There are real gun laws in California," Abbott said. "I hate to say this but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas. And we need to realize that people who think that well, maybe we can just implement tougher gun laws, it's gonna solve it. Chicago, and L.A. and New York, disprove that thesis. And so, if you're looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you're talking about, is not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement."
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Pritzker tweeted not long after the remarks a criticism of Abbott's comments.
"Shame on you, @GovAbbott," he wrote, while pointing to a report that a majority of guns used in Chicago crimes came from outside of Illinois. "Don’t feed into the false narrative about Chicago and Illinois – it’s an excuse that politicians like you hide behind to stop the federal legislation we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois and Texas both have similar firearm death rates, with Illinois sitting at 14.1 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2020 and Texas at 14.2.
The 18-year-old school shooter used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the bloodshed Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that ended with police storming a classroom and killing him. He had legally bought two such rifles just days before, soon after his birthday, authorities said.
Investigators shed no light on the motive for the attack, which also left 17 people wounded. Gov. Greg Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 85 miles west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor this year, interrupted the governor's news conference, calling the Republican’s response to the tragedy “predictable.” O’Rourke was escorted out while members of the crowd yelled at him, with one man calling him a “sick son of a bitch.”
As details of the latest mass killing to rock the U.S. emerged, grief engulfed Uvalde, population 16,000.
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The attack in the predominantly Latino town was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly unending string of mass killings at churches, schools, stores and other sites in the U.S. Just 10 days earlier, 10 Black people were shot to death in a racist rampage at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
In a somber address to the nation hours after the attack in Texas, President Joe Biden pleaded for Americans to “stand up to the gun lobby” and enact tougher restrictions, saying: “When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done?”
But the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations appeared dim. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other curbs have run into Republican opposition in Congress.
Texas, which has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the nation, has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the U.S. over the past five years. The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston, with the governor and both of Texas’ U.S. senators scheduled to speak.