Friday, May 27, 2022

We Cannot Abide Another Robb Elementary

Since the mid-1800s my family has called Texas home.  For generations we have been ranchers, hunters, businesspeople, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends.  We remain so to this day, deeply rooted and far spread.  We are gun owners, responsibly and without judgement.  We are also human beings with a deep capacity for empathy and compassion, whether it be for our fellow Texans or any other for whom we care, or simply can relate.  As hunters and gunowners, we believe absolutely in responsible gun ownership, and I therefore hope that readers of this desperate plea will not seek to question my motives in penning it.  Though I am a gun owner, and certainly intend to remain so, I nevertheless deeply believe in the need for commonsense gun control and sensible reform.  To ignore the necessity of such a change is to be complicit in the deaths of all the future victims of these largely preventable instances of mass violence.  Perhaps “preventable” is the keyword here, as it seems that many believe they are not and that we must accept them as inevitable.  Let us examine the reality. 

First, the vast majority of mass shootings are carried out by gunmen who obtained their weapons legally.  To illustrate the point, according to the National Institute of Justice, as of February 2022, 77% of those who engaged in mass shootings used legally purchased firearms.  The fact of the matter is that most of us, normal and disturbed people alike, quite simply have no idea how to obtain a weapon illegally.  We have no gang affiliations nor black-market connections, so how on earth can we hope to obtain a firearm illegally?  There are ways, certainly, but those ways are unknown to most of us, and in the highly chaotic crisis period of a person’s life that typically precedes a mass shooting event, the perpetrator is not likely to have the time, nor the mental capacity, to devise those means on their own, at least not in the moment.  It follows, quite logically, that had these perpetrators been unable to obtain their firearms legally as they did, then they would not likely have been able to obtain them at all. 

Secondly, the perpetrators of mass violence, whether shootings or anything else, nearly always have very discoverable red flags.  According to The Violence Project, nearly 65% of mass shooters had a criminal record, 63% a history of violence, 36% a history of domestic abuse, and 16% a history of sexual offenses.  Based on this alone, NONE of these individuals should have been allowed to purchase or own firearms, however, through various legal loopholes (gun shows, private sales, online, etc.) they were allowed to purchase firearms freely, and legally.  The Violence Project’s lofty database also tells us that nearly 100% of these perpetrators had suffered some type of severe emotional trauma in their near or distant pasts, and almost 2/3 had a discoverable history of mental concerns.  Quite counterintuitively, however, mental health issues are barely even a part of the process in purchasing a firearm, other than the non-voluntary committal to a mental health institution.  Someone with severe and diagnosed psychosis, even with violent tendencies, as long as they are free, is as able to purchase a firearm as is someone of sound mind.  Changing this should be common sense. 

The last statistic I will throw in is that roughly 26% of mass shooters had served in some branch of the armed forces.  Of those, numerous had received dishonorable discharges.  While Federal law DOES prohibit the sale of firearms to those who have been dishonorably discharged, it has been shown that the armed forces often fail to transfer that data into the Federal database where it would then be flagged in a FBI background check.  This is how these perpetrators were able to purchase their weapons from legitimate retailers, who for their part followed all legal procedures in place in order to legally conduct the transaction.      

Finally, let us look at how the US differs in terms of gun violence, and gun ownership in general, with other developed nations (Note, some of these statistics date back to 2007 and 2012, respectively):



Gun Ownership (per 100 people)

Gun Homicide Rate (per 1M people)

Gun legislation

(1 lax – 5 stringent)









United Kingdom













It is plainly evident that there are two factors that lead to sharp declines in gun violence.  The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that less guns in total means less gun violence.  And the second, legislation, may well be the driver of the first.  A gun is a very dangerous thing, and the ownership of such a weapon should not be taken lightly.  It requires training and diligence to responsibly wield a firearm, yet in the US it is treated much the same way as buying an automobile.  There are countless examples of developed countries with rich cultures and histories of gun ownership that nevertheless implemented commonsense gun reform and now enjoy significantly lower instances of gun violence than we here in the United States.  After a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, for example, gun laws were tightened.  According to the New York Times, the rate of mass shootings in that country prior to 1996 was roughly 1 every 18 months.  After the legislative changes, that rate has plummeted to only 1 single event in all the time that as elapsed since then (that’s 1 in 312 months and counting)!

The point of all this is not to “take away guns” as folks on the far right have so irresponsibly espoused to their fervent bases, but to be more responsible about gun ownership in general.  As a Texan and a hunter, I am certified in hunter safety and I also have a license to carry (LTC).  To obtain these licenses/designations, I had to attend numerous classes covering both safety and law, pass two written exams, undergo an intense background check, and demonstrate knowledge, proficiency, and safety live on the firing range under the supervision of a licensed instructor.  These things should be the absolute bare minimum for ALL gun ownership.  If you have not completed them, then you cannot own a firearm, plain and simple.  Further, I would happily throw a psychiatric evaluation onto the pile of requirements as well, and would then be honored to comply with that aspect so that I could earn the right to continue owning and enjoying my own gun collection, and the shooting sports with which I grew up. 

In conclusion, we cannot abide another Robb Elementary School, as we have cowardly abided all the tragedies that have preceded it.  Uvalde is only 90 miles from my home town of San Antonio, and I have many friends that were either born there or who still call it home today.  As a native Texan, I love to hunt, shoot skeet, target shoot, and look forward to teaching my own family to do the same, but that doesn’t prevent me from understanding and accepting the necessity for reform and tighter gun control.  Growing up with guns gives me a unique insight into their awesome power, and extraordinary danger in the wrong hands, and should therefore arm me with the credibility to make this argument on behalf of decency and commonsense.  To politicize this recent tragedy and continue to do nothing makes all of us complicit in the next tragedy, and it most certainly will come.  Only a fool would think otherwise.  In service to the country, and also to my own conscience, I can not standby while our elected leaders continue to use the deaths of children as political fodder, while simultaneously bending to the gun lobby and an uninformed base.  This is NOT a political issue, it is a moral prerogative.  A failure to act renders us guilty, and your “thoughts and prayers” will surely fall on the ears of an offended God who has grown deaf to your hypocrisy. 



Mac Altgelt

May 26, 2022





The Violence Project

National Institute of Justice

United Nations – Office on Drugs and Crime

The New York Times