There are plenty of politicians embroiled in controversies, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton remains a unique figure in the American landscape. As regular readers know, the Republican was already under indictment on felony securities fraud charges, for example, when members of his own team made multiple criminal allegations against him in October 2020.
A couple of months later, FBI agents arrived at Paxton’s door — as a rule, that’s not a good sign for any politician — and in the months that followed, the Texan faced unpleasant scrutiny from a Texas district attorney’s office and the Texas state bar.
Common sense might lead one to believe that there’s simply no way an incumbent facing such circumstances could run and win a re-election campaign. Indeed, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush — a member of a once-powerful family in the Lone Star State — saw the attorney general as vulnerable and launched a primary campaign.
Republican voters in Texas didn’t care: Paxton crushed Bush. Though votes are still being tallied, the latest totals show the incumbent winning by nearly 35 points.
As the state attorney general prepared to celebrate his landslide victory, Paxton faced obvious questions about the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which left at least 19 children and two teachers dead. His response on Fox News stood out for a reason:
“We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly. That, in my opinion, is the best answer.”
There’s a lot to unpack in this 32-word answer, but let’s focus on two key details.
Right off the bat is Paxton’s case that the United States simply lacks the wherewithal to “stop bad people from doing bad things.” The problem with this, of course, is that it’s an argument against all laws, not just gun laws.
But more important is the Texas Republican’s belief that “the best answer” to gunmen massacring children in schools is arming teachers and administrators.
Even if we limit the conversation to practical considerations, there’s simply no reason to see this as a serious proposal. Though the details of the murders are still coming into focus, the available evidence suggests the shooter wore body armor and survived an initial engagement with police officers who opened fire.
Armed school teachers, in other words, wouldn’t have made a difference.
But practical considerations aren’t the only relevant detail: Paxton is apparently of the opinion that the solution to children getting shot in schools is to put more guns in schools.
If this sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. Four years ago, after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Donald Trump — a Paxton supporter — pushed the idea of arming teachers, coaches, and principals, adding this “could very well solve your problem.”
As I noted in my book (see chapter 8), the then-president was quite serious about this, insisting that “twenty percent of teachers” are “adept” with firearms — a number he apparently made up — and would therefore be prepared to engage a gunman and neutralize him in the event of a school shooting. The Republican added on Twitter, “ATTACKS WOULD END! ... Problem solved.”
This was dumb at the time. It’s no better now.