Tragedy in Allen, Texas continues to ignite gun control debate


Tony Gutierrez | Associated Press

Mahboubeh Gorgband, of McKinney Texas, lays flower petals at a memorial established for the victims of the Wednesday shooting.

Eight victims. A dead gunman. Yet another point on the exhausted list of gun related tragedies that is only growing larger, as a shopping center in Allen, Texas becomes the most recent target of a mass shooting on May 8. 

The Allen shooting asserted itself in a haunting ranking, with data from the Gun Violence Archive concluding the outlet mall shooting marks the second-deadliest mass shooting thus far of 2023. 

Occurring just a week after the Cleveland, Texas shooting in which five people were killed and less than a year after the Uvalde tragedy, Texas is yet again rattled by a mass shooting. 

For DePaul students who call Texas home, the recent events only further ignited frustration about a lack of action on part of Texas politicians. 

Avery Schoenhals, a sophomore at DePaul, and Student Government Association vice president-elect, is originally from Southlake, Texas, a suburb 30 miles from the shopping center in Allen. 

“It’s incredibly frustrating to see how politicians on both sides of the aisle have responded to the gun violence crisis in our country, and in Texas,” Schoenhals said. “Seeing the responses from  Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, it’s easy to feel really disappointed in my home state.”

Both Gov. Abbott and Sen. Cruz vehemently opposes any further restrictions on guns, resulting in a lack of substantive policy towards the gun violence issue.

Other DePaul students, such as Nick Kolasinski, a graduate student and president of the DePaul Rifle and Pistol club, surround themselves with a different rhetoric on the debate of gun violence.

“I personally believe that we live in a very unhealthy society and that an increase in violence across the board is a natural occurrence of that,” Kolasinski said. “It would be better for both sides to embrace that the Second Amendment is here to stay, as are all the weapons.” 

A disconnect between the government and the people of Texas becomes apparent, as a July statewide study from the University of Texas at Austin finds that 52 percent of Texans support stronger gun safety laws. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, remains concrete in his stance towards gun control, deciding to stray further away from adopting more progressive policies on firearms by doing away with former laws. 

As of June 17, 2021, handgun owners in Texas no longer need a permit to carry their guns, through House Bill 1927

Texas has notoriously opened up the market to younger buyers. 18 year olds can possess and purchase guns ranging from handguns to automatic rifles. 

A momentous movement enacted by parents of Uvalde victims, gun control advocates and bipartisan members of the Texas House set out to raise the age limit to purchase an AR-style weapon to 21. 

Despite the advancement of the legislation following the deadly events in Allen last week, which was met with rare bipartisan support, the bill remains off the House floor.

Abbott has notoriously embraced a hands-off approach to gun control, stating his focus remains on what he identifies as the “root cause” of gun violence, being mental health issues, which he expressed on Fox News following the events in Allen. 

The next step for the state of Texas is partisan rhetoric,” Kolasinski said. 

Craig Klugman, a professor of bioethics and health humanities at DePaul, expressed worry about addressing gun violence through a mental health approach. 

“It is not mental illness that has led to a mass shooting epidemic,” Klugman said. “Otherwise other countries would be experiencing it too.”

Normalization of such events also poses a roadblock to addressing the true issue at hand, according to Klugman. 

“Gun violence is the leading cause of death in children,” Klugman said. ‘We can’t normalize this, that is No. 1.”

Pew Research Center reveals gun deaths amongst children in the U.S. saw a 50 percent spike from 2019 to 2021. 

College students who grew up in an era where mass shootings have become a common event are fighting off the pattern of normalization as well. 

“I saw the new PSA that the FBI released about how to survive a mass shooting and thought, ‘no other comparable country has to live like this,’” Schoenhals said. 

Looking back on the Uvalde shooting, 19 young children’s lives were taken by extreme gun violence. Of the victims in Allen, three were young children attending the mall with their parents.  

“We sell backpacks and jackets that are bulletproof for elementary school kids, that’s crazy,” Klugman said. “The answer isn’t bulletproof clothing, it’s ‘let’s not have the guns in the hands of the average person.’”

The former leading cause of death in children, motor vehicle crashes, lost its top spot to firearm deaths in 2020, according to the National Institute of Health.  

In the explosive debate about Second Amendment rights, some, such as Kolasinski, see little purpose in emphasizing statistics surrounding gun related deaths.

“The gun death numbers are now explicitly irrelevant to the debate over the Second Amendment, as they always have been for all other constitutional rights,” Kolasinski said. “It is time for politicians to move on and respect the Second Amendment.”

In addition to diverting the spotlight onto mental health issues, Abbott also sees illegal gun purchases as a prime motivator for gun violence. 

Most gun crimes are committed by criminals who possess guns illegally,” the governor asserted in his Feb. 19 State of the State Address

But, events in Texas paint a contradicting reality.

The Allen shooter possessed three guns on his body during the time of the shooting, with five more stored in his car. According to authorities, all these firearms were obtained legally.

 The Uvalde shooter, at age 18, was able to legally buy assault style rifles in the state of Texas. 

“We’re talking about weapons that are designed for war and only have one purpose,” Klugman said. “We’re talking about things just designed to maim people.” 

For some, there does remain a sense of hope in politics, as Schoenhals’ recalls Texas’ position in the 2020 election. 

“For the first time in decades, our country went blue in the 2020 presidential election,” Schoenhals said, referring to Democrats’ ensuing control of the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and the presidency. “Knowing that there’s a shift on the horizon is helpful for me.”

Schoenhals also asserted his confidence in Generation Z and their mobilization.

“I’ve heard from a number of professors that they truly believe that Generation Z will be the generation to fundamentally change this country,” Schoenhals said. “Knowing that, I just think we have to keep the pressure on our government to take action.”

Klugman urges students to remain resilient, and to continue to put pressure on elected officials.

“We can reach out to our politicians … especially students from other states,” Klugman said. “It’s really important to reach out to your elected officials at all levels.”

For Klugman, remembering the victims of the Allen tragedy remains as a clear signal to not fall victim to apathy and to continue to mobilize. 

“We can’t have art, humanity, beauty or education if we’re afraid that everytime we turn the corner we’re going to be shot down,” Klugman said. “I feel like we can still do better.”