On Sunday, Texas Senator John Cornyn rose to the defense of Texas law enforcement officers, tweeting, “Complex scenarios require split-second decisions. Easy to criticize with 20-20 hindsight.” Cornyn also said that criticizing law enforcement officers in Texas for their response to the Uvalde mass killing was “unfair” and “distracting.”
In many crises, law enforcement officers must make a single, split-second decision that involves life and death. But that is not what happened at Uvalde. Over the course of 77 minutes, at least 19 officers had a cumulative total of 87,780 “split-seconds” to make the only right decision: to protect children locked in a classroom with a killer who was executing them with an assault rifle, leaving them to die on the floor.
Over the course of 77-minutes, those 19 officers made 87,780 split-second decisions—all of them wrong.
They decided 87,780 times to remain safely separated from the killer by a locked classroom door.
They decided 87,780 times to ignore the sounds of continuing gunshots from the classroom.
They decided 87,780 times to ignore their training in active shooter situations—“Run to the gunfire, confront the shooter.”
They decided 87,780 times to “wait” for “special equipment” to confront a teenage shooter who was outmatched nineteen times over by “Texas lawmen” with more than a century of tactical training between them.
They decided 87,780 times to ignore the pleas of frantic parents.
They decided 87,780 times to ignore 9-1-1 calls from within the classroom pleading for help from the police.
They decided 87,780 times to ignore their consciences, which were surely screaming in their heads, “It is wrong to wait! Save the children! Save the children!”
So, Senator Cornyn, if you want to tell Americans that we must consider the “split-second” decisions by law enforcement officers at Uvalde, do not pretend there was one “split-second” decision. There were at least 87,780 split-second decisions by Texas lawmen—and all of them were wrong.
Senator Cornyn’s tweets over the weekend are reprehensible for another reason. Cornyn has begun the official Republican campaign to tell Americans how they are “permitted” to talk about the mass executions at Uvalde. Cornyn, and other Republican apologists for mass killings, want Americans to “be civil,” to “avoid politicizing” the death of children, to refrain from criticizing police, and to refrain from using language that would describe the horrific reality of what happened in the classroom. In attempting to control our language, the GOP is trying to control how we think about what happened at Uvalde. We must reject those cynical efforts, body and soul.
The most offensive effort by Republicans to avoid talking about the role of guns in mass executions is the knee-jerk reaction to blame “mental health” for the killings. We must not allow Republicans to conflate mental health and guns. America—like every major nation in the world—has millions of citizens who struggle with mental health issues. Those Americans deserve our support and care, just as they do in every nation. But America is the only nation that regularly experiences mass killings in schools, shopping malls, and theaters. The differentiating factor is not mental health in our respective countries; it is America’s easy availability of weapons designed to kill human beings quickly and efficiently.
I have returned from several days at our remote cabin in the Sierras and plan to resume my regular publication schedule and format on Tuesday morning. The last five editions of the newsletter have been devoted to the mass executions at Uvalde. The outpouring of emails and comments from readers has been overwhelming. I urge you to check out the Comments section of the newsletter, where readers have posted thoughtful, emotional, and insightful comments about the tragedy in Uvalde. I have been deeply impressed and affected by what they say about this tragedy, and I recommend their comments to you.
I expect some to criticize my formulation of 87,780 split-second decisions by 19 Texas lawmen over the course of 77 minutes as hyperbolic. Okay, give me an alternative number of split-second decisions. 10,000? 5,000? 2,000? Then compare that number of incorrect split-second decisions to the single correct decision that is immediately obvious to every officer in America: Save the children, above all else!
“This time is different.” How many times have we uttered that phrase after a mass killing? Whether “this time is different” will be determined by the collective will and dedication of tens of millions of Americans. Though I am grateful that Senators Murphy and Cornyn are talking about something tangentially related to guns, Murphy has already said that universal background checks and assault rifle bans are a bridge too far. Let’s not repeat the BBB negotiation debacle. We waited with bated breath for each new “positive” development—only to be disappointed to learn that Republicans (and Manchin and Sinema) had no intention of agreeing with Democrats.
If this time is different, it will be because “we the people” lead the way, rather than waiting for a miracle to emerge from the world’s most ossified body. If we lead the way, Congress will follow. We must not allow Republicans to define the agenda. Don’t let them tell us how to speak, what to think, or how to behave. If this time is different, it will be because we choose to speak, think, and act differently—in ways that honor the truth of what happened at Uvalde.
Talk to you tomorrow.
The two teachers who protected their students did not need time to think. They instinctively put their bodies in front of the children to protect them. They gave their lives to protect them.
How could the police just stand and wait when they knew that those children were calling 911 and begging for help?
It seems to me that those police, from the top on down, should resign their positions immediately.
Robert, I found your math very clever and wonderfully devastating for "Senator" Cornyn. Of course I could argue that split-second decisions mean the second is split at least in two so that would be 175,560 split-second decisions. I live in Texas so I'm putting "Senator" in quotes since he is not representing me or the majority of Texans. The two horrors that stand out in this for me are 1) those beautiful children so mutilated and torn by bullets that their parents could not identify them requiring DNA to identify them. Do people understand the true barbarity of that!? 2) those cowards staying put while listening to gunshots coming from the classrooms with each shot meaning a child was dying or dead. How many did they let die that could have been saved if 1 split-second right decision had been made. It certainly shatters the argument for more "good guys" with guns. This should mean court martial for each and every one of them and impeachment of both Texas "Senators" for not upholding their oath to the Constitution and putting all their constituents in mortal danger. In a democracy rights come with the responsibility to protect the rights of others and most assuredly the right to life. Rights which one applies only to himself is called anarchy. There is no way for them to distract us this time. Change is now inevitable and close at hand. There are no "good" Republicans anymore. Step 1: President Biden declares a national emergency and raises the age to buy guns to 21. 2. We, the People, oust every Republican in November 2022 and vote in a super majority of over 67 Senate seats to non-Republican candidates. 3. In January 2023 a new law codifying gun safety and accountability is passed and bans assault guns. 4. The illegitimate Justices on the rogue Supreme Court are impeached in February 2023. 5. President Biden nominates the replacement Justices in March 2023. 6. in April the rights including women's rights taken away in June 2022 are restored in April 2023. And we all live happily ever after not in a fairy tale but with the United People of America. To the veterans of our military services, thank you for your service and sacrifice.