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Republican Leaders in Texas Downplay Guns, Focus on Mental Health in Aftermath of Allen Shooting

After a shooting at an Allen outlet mall ended with eight dead, Texas Republicans are doubling down on their resistance to gun control legislation.

A gunman used an AR-15-style weapon to open fire on shoppers on Saturday afternoon, killing eight people and injuring at least seven others. The massacre ended when a police officer, already at the scene, killed the gunman.

In an interview on Sunday, Fox News presented Gov. Greg Abbott with a poll that showed Americans overwhelmingly favored background checks and raising the minimum age to buy firearms. But the governor shunned gun safety options in Texas and instead pointed to the need to increase mental health funding.

“We are working to address that anger and violence by going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it,” he said. “People want a quick solution. The long term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Self, a Republican who represents Allen, also emphasized mental health as a solution to gun violence. In an interview with CNN, Self said “many of these situations are based on” the closures of mental health institutions.

The shooting in Allen comes as Texas lawmakers face fresh calls for gun safety legislation. But efforts to restrict access to firearms have been elusive this legislative session. A measure to raise the age to purchase a semi automatic rifle in the state from 18 to 21 — backed by families of the Uvalde school shooting victims – appears likely to miss a deadline to pass out of a House committee on Monday.

A little after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, a gunman stepped out of a gray car outside Allen Premium Outlets and began shooting at shoppers on the sidewalk. The gunman was wearing tactical gear and used an AR-15-style assault weapon to carry out the shooting, President Joe Biden confirmed in a statement Sunday. Allen in the northern suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 7 miles north of Plano.

Helen Bennett was at the outlet to celebrate her birthday with her daughter. They were at a Hanes store when they heard the first shots. A manager at the store locked the doors and pulled the Bennetts and about a dozen other customers into the back room.

“You could hear the shots: ‘bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam,’” Bennett said. “I thought, ‘will they ever stop?’”

Even after the sound of gunshots stopped, Bennett remained in the back room with daughter for at least two hours waiting for the all-clear. The shoppers sang “Happy Birthday” to Bennett to try to lighten the mood.

“We’ll be traumatized for quite some time,” Bennett said. “It’s hard to even talk about. I know we have to get over it.”

Of the seven injured, three were still in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, according to Medical City Healthcare. Police have not yet released the names of the victims or the gunman. A spokesperson for Medical City Healthcare said the hospital was treating patients as young as 5 years old.

This story originally appeared on the Texas Tribune. To read this article in its original format, click here.


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