Gun safety advocates express horror at mass shooting in Texas and Gov Abbott’s response

The house where the shooting took place (AP)
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Gun safety advocates have decried the latest deadly mass shooting in the US, which left five people dead on Friday night.

The shooting was reported at around 10.30pm in a rural area just outside the city of Cleveland, Texas, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. A gunman, identified as 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, allegedly opened fire on his neighbours when one of the victims complained about him firing rounds in his yard.

Five people, whose ages ranged from eight to around 40, were killed “execution style” with an AR-15 style rifle. An eight-year-old child and a 15-year-old girl were among the fatal victims, according to law enforcement.

The tragedy is the latest in a concerning epidemic of senseless gun violence in the US; just four months into the year, America has seen more than 170 mass shootings, according to CNN. Reacting to the deadly violence, gun safety advocates slammed lax weapon laws in Texas.

“Assault rifles were designed to be used by highly trained soldiers in battle, not marketed to violent men to carry out revenge fantasies,” gun violence prevention activist and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts tweeted on Saturday. “From Newtown to Nashville, Las Vegas to Uvalde, these weapons of war are chosen and used to inflict as much harm as quickly as possible.”

Ms Watts went on to criticize Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s reaction — or lack thereof — to the massacre. The political leader, who tweeted a picture of his pet dog along with the caption “all smiles for the weekend” on Saturday, had yet to issue a statement regarding the shooting by midday on Saturday. The Independent has reached out to his office for comment.

“This is the Governor of Texas’ tweet AFTER learning that a gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire on a family in his state, killing five people, including an 8-year-old,” Ms Watts wrote.

Brett Cross, who lost his son Uziye in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde last year, also lashed out at the Republican governor for not making mention of the deadly shooting.

“All smiles this weekend? No mention of the 5 that were murdered for asking a man to quit shooting so they could sleep?” Mr Cross tweeted. “The same damn smiles after Uvalde. The same damn smiles after Santa Fe. The same damn smiles after El Paso X2. F*** you and your smile.”

Texas has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country. Most adults are allowed to carry a handgun in a holster both openly and concealed, without a permit. Firearm dealers in the Lone Star State are not required to conduct background checks before selling, despite three-thirds of Texas supporting such measures, according to Texas Gun Sense.

The Twitter profile for Everytown for Gun Safety also condemned the attack on Friday.

“We don’t have to live this way; we don’t have to die this way,” the nonprofit’s tweet read. “Our hearts are broken for those whose lives were stolen and all impacted by this horrific act of mass gun violence in Cleveland, Texas.”

Texas Gun Sense joined the protest, tweeting: “Just yesterday, we stood on the steps of the Capitol with survivors from Uvalde demanding that lawmakers act. This morning, we’ve learned of another senseless shooting that ended the life of a child and his family members.”

The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office Oropeza said Mr Opereza allegedly shot his neighbours with an AR-15 style rifle after they asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they had a baby and children at the home who were trying to sleep.

“The neighbours walked over and said … ‘Hey man, can you not do that, we’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep’ or whatever,” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said, per the Washington Post. “They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15.”

In the last month, gun violence victims across the US have been shot, sometimes fatally, for accidentally banging on the wrong door, parking on the wrong driveway, getting inside the wrong car, and attempting to retrieve a stray basketball from a neighbour’s yard.