Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has a choice few other Americans ever face. He can either help make the country safer for everyone, or he can continue to make it safer for Ted Cruz. Gee, which option do you think he’ll choose? Honestly, if he picks the former, I’ll eat my “I Ate the Worm at the Congo Bar in Cancún While Texas Families Froze 2021” bucket hat.
While in Houston last week to celebrate the latest spate of mass shootings with some of his best NRA ghoul-friends, Cruz said this of “elite” gun control advocates in government and the media: “Many of these same people make their accusations from behind great bulwarks of safety, from gated communities equipped with private security or, at the very least, from safe and expensive neighborhoods protected by high home prices and low crime rates. Such people can afford an indulgent ideology that ignores reality.”
That’s particularly ironic, since ignoring reality is one of Ted’s favorite hobbies—right behind shrinking my scrotum like an industrial vacuum sealer via an unrelenting campaign of fear, intimidation, and being really fucking gross. The other reason it’s ironic? Ted has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars transforming his own home into a fortress.
The Daily Beast:
Since October 2020, the Cruz campaign has paid Houston-area executive protection firm Atlas Glinn nearly half a million dollars to protect himself and his family—$499,661, almost all of it in monthly lump sums averaging around $30,000, according to federal disclosures. (The Atlas Glinn website features a photo of a security detail guarding Cruz in a parade car.)
Cruz—a Harvard Law School grad who in the aftermath of last week’s elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, attacked the Democratic politicians and the media for dominating the gun control narrative—also put more than $800 of his donors’ money toward “security equipment” last year from Houston-based boutique Caroline+Morgan Interiors. It’s not immediately clear from the company’s website exactly which of its wares would fit the bill as security equipment.
Oh, right. Did you forget that Cruz went to Harvard? Some might describe that as an “elite” school. But what do I know? I went to a public state university with the rest of the AR-15 fodder.
While Cruz is the biggest GOP spender, however, he also hauls in the most cash from pro-gun rights groups, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. But the threat of violence now appears to be outweighing those rewards, at least in financial terms. Cruz has spent so much donor money ensuring his own safety that he has fully exhausted the $442,343 he’s received over the years from the gun lobby, and then some.
Now, to be fair, I understand the point Ted was trying to make. So-called “elites” don’t have to worry so much about random gun violence because they live in nice neighborhoods and can afford state-of-the-art security systems. So it might seem hypocritical of them to call for gun control when they don’t need the perceived protection that a personal firearm might afford them. But is that really a fair point? In this country, you can avoid trouble to some degree if you have money, but we’re all vulnerable to rampaging mall, church, and theater shooters, and anyone’s children could find themselves in the crosshairs anytime they head for school.
Elie Mystal is on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast
So the question remains: What can “elites” do to make society safer for everyone, and not just for Ted Cruz and the people he likes to criticize?
At least one group of elites would tell you we need to do “something”—whereas Cruz’s exclusive right-wing Ivy League clique will tell you “nothing works, so don’t even bother.”
Who’s right? The preponderance of the evidence suggests it’s the “do something” crowd.
In a 2016 study published in Epidemiologic Reviews, Columbia University researcher Julian Santaella-Tenorio, et al., reviewed 130 studies published in 10 different countries and concluded that gun violence tends to drop after countries pass comprehensive gun control laws. “The simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths,” the study noted.
But not all gun restrictions are created equal.
This finding doesn't highlight one specific law, like an assault weapon ban, in isolation. There were "so many different kinds of laws," Santaella-Tenorio told me, that it was hard to make good international comparisons on every specific kind of gun restriction.
Rather, countries passed big packages of gun laws, which overhauled the nation's firearm code fairly broadly, which all tended to share similar features. According to Santaella-Tenorio, they generally included:
- Banning powerful weapons, like automatic rifles.
- Implementing a background check system.
- Requiring people to get permits and licenses before buying a gun.
Meanwhile, a May 31 New York Times story came to a similar conclusion, citing California’s successful “Swiss cheese model” (i.e., stacking laws on top of each other to cover up the holes in individual gun safety regulations), which has helped drive down gun violence.
California’s rate of firearm mortality is among the nation’s lowest, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, compared with 13.7 per 100,000 nationally and 14.2 per 100,000 in Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. And Californians are about 25% less likely to die in mass shootings, compared with residents of other states, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California analysis.
There may not be anything we can do to put an end to gun violence, but California’s example proves that it can at least be robustly confronted.
In an interview with Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, Wintemute noted, “The lower the prevalence of ownership, the lower the rate of firearm violence—that’s been one of the most robust research findings for decades. Rates of gun ownership are lower here, in part because of this bundle of state measures. In the United States overall, something like 25% to 30% of individuals own guns. In California, it’s about 15% to 18%.”
Hmm, fewer guns, less gun violence. Who could have ever predicted that? Well, elites who went to Harvard probably could—but not if they’re paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to pretend otherwise.
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