CHICAGO — Chicagoans slammed Texas’ governor on Wednesday for trying to deflect attention toward Chicago’s violence after a mass shooting in his state left 19 children dead in a school.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference Wednesday to talk about how a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a school in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman had recently legally purchased two AR-15s, and a semi-automatic was used in the shooting, officials have said.
But Abbott turned his attention toward Chicago and its gun laws during his remarks.
“I hate to say this, there are more people that are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” said Abbott, a Republican running for re-election. “If you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution.”
The tactic — invoking Chicago, a Democratic stronghold, to try to deflect from a mass shooting or scandal — is one that’s been repeatedly used by high-level Republicans in recent years.
It’s also one that Chicagoans are sick of.
“Gov Abbott, instead of coming after my city, take a moment to think about how YOU can stop this carnage,” tweeted Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat. “I work day and night to stop the violence. I see the suffering. Open your eyes. Lives are being lost. Be a part of the solution or get the hell out of the way.”
Gov. JB Pritzker also weighed in, saying Abbott is “lying” about what fuels gun violence.
“Don’t feed into the false narrative about Chicago and Illinois — it’s an excuse that politicians like you hide behind to stop the federal legislation we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Pritzker, a Democrat.
Other local officials criticized, Abbott as well.
“Appalling that the governor of a state where such a horrific tragedy occurred would spend his time today deflecting,” state Attorney General Kwame Raoul wrote on Twitter. “We are outraged by daily gun violence in Chicago & we are outraged at the innocent lives lost in Uvalde. We can do something about both.”
Rep. Marie Newman, a Democrat representing parts of Chicago, slammed Abbott and called for tougher gun laws nationally in the wake of the shooting.
Abbott “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” Newman wrote on Twitter. “The MAJORITY of illegal firearms recovered in Chicago come from out-of-state dealers in red states like Indiana or Wisconsin.”
Dozens of Chicagoans chimed in on social media, criticizing Abbott and his remarks as being misleading, distracting and insensitive after the killings of 19 children.
“Your whataboutisms are boring, lazy, and irrelevant,” one Chicagoan tweeted. “Children are being murdered and the GOP does not give a f—.”
Others said officials should instead be looking to Chicago for guidance in responding to crime.
The city — while still struggling with violence — has experimented with more holistic methods for preventing violence, like increasing funding to intervention workers who de-escalate potentially violent situations.
In North Lawndale on the West Side, shootings have dropped nearly 57 percent this year, showing how those programs are succeeding, intervention workers have said.
Communities Partnering 4 Peace — a coalition of intervention and anti-violence groups — has worked to drive down violence, as well.
“Chicago community is working on gun violence!” one Chicagoan tweeted after Abbott’s remarks. Communities Partnering 4 Peace “is effective, and republicans should learn from Chicago on gun crime.”
While Abbott criticized Chicago’s gun laws, officials have said about 60 percent of “crime guns” that are taken in by local police actually come from other states, where laws are more lenient. Officials have said many people simply travel to nearby states — like Indiana and Missouri — to buy a gun that they then use in Chicago or illegally resell to people in Chicago.
Experts have also said Chicago does not have the nation’s strictest gun laws — despite that being a common critique of the city — and that the city’s efforts are dampened by the lax laws in nearby states.
And though Chicago has seen a surge in shootings and homicides during the pandemic, the city is not the “murder capital.” Its murder rate is routinely significantly lower than that of St. Louis, Baltimore, Birmingham and other American cities.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: