Since 2014, there have been more than 3,500 mass shootings in the U.S., including many in which the gunman displayed warning signs or was prohibited from owning firearms, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Of those shootings, more than 1,200 have taken place since 2020.
There were more than 250 mass shootings in the U.S. in the first six months of 2022. On May 14, a gunman motivated by white supremacist ideology killed 10 people in a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. On May 24, 19 children and two teachers were fatally shot in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. A shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., killed seven.
Meanwhile, gun advocacy organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) have spent millions of dollars in campaign contributions, lobbying fees, and outside spending to influence lawmakers to soften or reject proposed gun safety measures.
American Oversight is investigating elected officials’ communications with the NRA and other pro-gun groups. Since 2021, we have filed public records requests for communications between the gun lobby and officials in South Carolina, Ohio, Montana, Missouri, Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas.
American Oversight’s requests in Texas were filed following several high-profile tragedies that failed to lead to meaningful reform, including the 2017 church shooting in Sutherland Springs and the 2018 shooting at a Santa Fe high school. Emails we obtained from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office showed that, just hours after the shooting, NRA lobbyists sent his office talking points on state laws about firearms in churches. In 2018, Abbott hosted “roundtable discussions” on school safety that resulted in a 40-recommendation plan, but in the years since, Texas lawmakers have instead weakened gun restrictions and gun-control advocates have criticized Abbott for failing to broadly implement the plan’s safety measures.
After the shooting in Uvalde, Abbott canceled his in-person appearance at an NRA convention in Houston, but addressed the crowd in a recorded video message. Days after the shooting, Abbott praised the “amazing courage” of responding police officers and stated that the killing spree “could have been worse” — despite the mounting evidence that law enforcement’s response was an abject failure. Attorney General Paxton said that teachers should be armed at school, saying on a conservative podcast that “God always has a plan.”
In early June 2022, American Oversight filed records requests with the governor’s and the attorney general’s offices for any recent communications with pro-gun groups, including the NRA, in the week after the Uvalde shooting. In response, both offices said they had no records responsive to our request. Later that month, American Oversight sued for those records and other communications, arguing that the offices’ claims of having zero contact with such groups at that time were implausible