CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday confronted a Texas Republican lawmaker over inaction on gun violence, directly asking him why the state’s legislature seemingly puts more vigor toward stripping women’s access to abortion than it does in protecting schoolchildren.
“What we want to know is what your solution is,” Camerota asked state Rep. James White while standing in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students were killed on Tuesday. “We’ve all seen how quickly and creatively Texas—your local legislature—can act when it wants to, say, protect the unborn embryo. Why not act with that alacrity to protect living, breathing 10-year-olds in this school behind me?”
White, a state lawmaker for 12 years who recently lost a primary bid for Texas agriculture commissioner, responded: “We have this thing called the Constitution.” He then pivoted to pointing a finger at the mental-health issues, despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott admitting that the shooter, Salvator Ramos, was not suffering from any known mental health issues.
“What we really need to be looking at is—whether it’s in Buffalo, whether it’s in Uvalde—is these young men, for some reason, that have some very disturbed emotional state,” White said. “We need to look at our mental health system.”
White’s comments reflected a common talking point among Republicans on gun restrictions. In the hours following Tuesday’s massacre, conservatives have argued that stricter gun legislation would not have prevented the violence.
Still, White’s claim was immediately called out by anchor Victor Blackwell, who noted Abbott’s concession and pointed to White’s highly favorable 92-percent rating from the National Rifle Association. “They say that this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” Blackwell said. “There was no evidence that there was mental illness.”
White tried to seize on the anchor’s comments, arguing that the word “deranged” indicates Blackwell, too, believes mental illness is to blame. Going forward, White said, the legislature would look at “everything.”
“But at the end of the day, we’re going to look at the people who do these acts, we’re going to convict them, and we’re going to punish them,” White said.
“You can’t convict him, sir,” Camerota shot back. “You can’t convict him. He was killed. He was killed, along with 19 children in the school behind me.”