Steven Spainhouer’s son worked at the H&M at the Allen, Texas, outlet mall and called his father Saturday night when the shooting started. Spainhouer raced to the scene and arrived before the first responders. And here is the sight that greeted him: “The first girl I walked up to was crouched down covering her head in the bushes, so I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side, and she had no face.”
That’s not a scene from a shopping zone. That’s a scene from the Normandy invasion recreation in Saving Private Ryan. It’s a scene from a war zone. But lately in the United States of America, shopping zones are war zones.
For the record, it’s the 199th mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The 200th will happen today, or maybe has already happened by the time you’ve read this. We’re on pace for close to 600 shootings, and perhaps 60,000 willful, malicious, or accidental deaths (there’ve been 20,200 so far this year, according to the GVA, in the first four months and one week of 2023). That 60,000 is roughly equal to the number of Americans who died in Vietnam in nearly a decade. We’ll witness the same amount of carnage in one year. Shopping zones are war zones.
But it would seem that little girl getting her face blown off as if she lived in Stalingrad in 1943 is just God’s will. This was the verdict of the congressman who represents Allen, Republican Keith Self, who went on CNN after the shooting. He offered his prayers. The anchor interjected that some people think “prayers aren’t cutting it.” Self responded: “Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives. I’m a Christian. I believe that He is.”
Self, we should note, is about as accidental a congressman as a person can be. In 2022, he challenged GOP incumbent Van Taylor in the primary. Taylor was seemingly headed toward a win when, two days before the primary, an Alex Jones–founded far-right website published an interview with a woman who claimed that she and Taylor had been having an affair. The woman was the wife of an American who had joined the Islamic State in 2013 and had been dubbed the “ISIS bride” by British tabloids. The revelation helped keep Taylor just below the 50 percent threshold required for a primary win. The next day, he withdrew. (I’d love to know the details behind all that!) Self cruised to victory.
And now Self gets to use his perch as a duly elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives to say with a straight face that there is nothing we can or should do about these massacres. God will sort it out.
Governor Greg Abbott, meanwhile, offered the usual pointless bromides: “unspeakable tragedy,” “our hearts are with” the people of Allen. Well, at least, as of Sunday afternoon, he hadn’t gone out of his way to discuss anyone’s immigration status, as he did the previous week after the Cleveland, Texas, shooting, when he took pains to note the status of both the shooter and the victims.
Yes, that shooting, which left six dead, was just eight days before this one. What thoughts are exploding in the mind and conscience of a man who presides over such carnage and does nothing? From the evidence, Abbott’s only thoughts are in the direction of how he can create the conditions for more girls to get their faces blown off. In 2021, Texas passed a law allowing Texans to carry guns in public without a permit or the licensing a permit would require and another law prohibiting state agencies and local governments from enforcing new federal gun rules (you read that right—prohibiting).
He called this “freedom.” I wonder what that little girl’s parents think of this definition of freedom.
There’s a bill pending in the current session that would actually close a small loophole in teen mental health reporting that might have some vague impact on gun accessibility. The Senate passed it, but it languishes in the House. The legislative session ends May 29.
Meanwhile, newer and deadlier guns are coming on the market at a steady pace. That’s right: If you thought gun manufacturers might hit pause on all this, think again. After all, there’s a market out there, and it’s booming.
Last year, for example, saw the introduction to the U.S. market of the Sig Sauer MCX Spear, the “civilian version” of the U.S. Army’s new XM7 rifle. Have a gander at this beast. It retails for $4,200, so it’s probably not within the reach of your average mass murderer.
But your mass murderer of above-average means will find a lot to like. It is, according to some reports I read, twice as powerful as an AR-15, and it’s specifically designed to tear through Kevlar or any other supposedly bulletproof material. (If the Uvalde police were too scared to intervene in that town’s school shooting, just wait until this weapon permeates the market.)
The great Michael Daly of The Daily Beast was on this story last year. This lengthy quote he extracted from a former firearms executive turned policy analyst is worth taking in: “There’s been this huge craze in shooting competitions to become a thousand-yard sniper. A lot of people want to be that long-range, thousand-yard sniper. Like they literally fantasize about taking some guy out from a mile away, because the gun will shoot a mile. You don’t hear it coming, you don’t see the shooter. The bullet just hits somebody. And this MCX Spear will essentially introduce that kind of capability to the semi-auto AR-15 world. All of a sudden, people will be able to kind of live out their fantasy of becoming a long-range sniper with an AR-15-style gun.”
This is the truth about where we are. The gun industry is bringing to market weapons capable of dispensing more death, in more violent fashion. Republican members of Congress say it’s in God’s hands, not theirs. And malls and schools are war zones. One witness in Allen was quoted by The New York Times as saying: “It was just kind of chaotic for a second. Then when someone said, ‘shooter,’ we all ran to the back of the store. As Americans, we’re used to this, because everyone knew exactly what to do.”
There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn from all this. This is what the America gun manufacturers, the NRA, and right-wing politicians want: a country where we know that any trip to the mall involves a certain rolling of the dice. After all, that’s freedom.