Republican leaders in Texas play down guns, focus on mental health after Allen shooting

President Joe Biden confirmed Sunday that the shooter used an AR-15 in the attack.

ALLEN, Texas — (THE TEXAS GRANDSTAND) After a shooting at an Allen mall ended in 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 wounding at least seven others. The massacre ended when a police officer, already on the spot, killed the gunman.

In an interview Sunday, Fox News presented Governor Greg Abbott with a poll that showed Americans were overwhelmingly in favor of background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase firearms. But the governor has eschewed gun safety options in Texas and instead emphasized the need to increase funding for mental health.

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

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

The Allen shooting comes as Texas lawmakers face new demands for gun safety legislation. But efforts to limit access to firearms have been elusive this legislative session. A measure to raise the age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle in the state from 18 to 21 – backed by the families of victims of the Uvalde school shooting – seems likely to miss a deadline to pass Monday by a House committee .

Shortly after 3:30 pm on Saturday, a gunman got out of a gray car outside the Allen Premium Outlets and began shooting at sidewalk shoppers. The gunman wore 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 celebrating her birthday with her daughter. They were in a Hanes store when they heard the first shots. A store manager locked the doors and dragged the Bennetts and 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 gunfire stopped, Bennett remained in the back room with his daughter for at least two hours waiting for the all-clear. Shoppers sang “Happy Birthday” to Bennett to try and lighten the mood.

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

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

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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