Talking Points

How the police's handling of the Uvalde shooting could inspire more people to arm themselves

This week's mass shooting at a Texas school, in which children were murdered so soon after the racist rampage in Buffalo, has led to more calls for gun control. "When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" President Biden has asked.

But that could change if the complaints about the Uvalde police department's response continue to draw scrutiny. "The police were doing nothing," a parent told The Wall Street Journal. "They were just standing outside the fence. They weren't going in there or running anywhere."

Parents claimed that they were restrained, even handcuffed, by authorities who declined to enter the school to confront the gunman. Questions have arisen about how long the shooter was allowed to move freely inside, mowing down schoolchildren as police waited outside for as long as 40 minutes. Border patrol agents ended up going in, with an elite team member killing the active shooting.

If people do not feel that the police or other government entities can protect them or their families, they will resort to self-defense. That — more than bloodlust, indifference, or the gun lobby — is why school shootings have done less than gun control proponents would have hoped to move the needle on legislation. In fact, some respond to these incidents by buying guns themselves.

If the law enforcement reaction was botched, portions of the public may turn against policies they believe will end up disarming them. That won't be a universal response — many will continue to see some sort of government action on guns as the solution. Questions at Thursday's White House briefing demanding Biden or Congress do something far outnumbered inquiries about how the police handled the situation

But others will see a diffident official response to the attack and will want their children defended by people who know and care about them: their teachers, neighbors, families, and themselves. And they will find the arguments that only trained professionals can be trusted to deal with armed assailants much less persuasive if those professionals are seen as less willing to engage than people who know the children personally.

This won't necessarily be limited to white conservatives, despite the stereotype. We've seen gun ownership rise among people of color, including in communities where there is distrust of police protection. It could turn the politics of Uvalde on their head