Texas lawmakers, who were still in Washington working on legislation, reacted with shock and dismay Friday to the killings of five law enforcement officers in Dallas. Some Democrats renewed calls for gun control measures.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, who represents the district where the shootings took place, was hard hit by the events.
“I live just a few blocks from where it happened,” Johnson said in an interview from her Washington office. “Of course, I’m very chagrined. I work with the police chief, the mayor, the county chief. I don’t have words to express how concerned I am.”
She led the House of Representatives in a moment of silence at midday, surrounded by members from Texas, something that she said had been a point of conflict briefly with the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who told her, “I want a moment of action.” Democrats held a sit-in on the House floor last month demanding action on gun control.
Johnson, who is African-American, said people who were mentally unbalanced could get impassioned when they learned of killings of African-Americans by police, such as two shootings earlier this week in Louisiana and Minnesota, and acquire deadly weapons. “As long as people who might be mentally unstable see mistreatment of African-Americans, they may act,” she said, noting that about 500 people, including many of color, have been killed by police this year.
The alleged shooter, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, who was killed by a Dallas police robot, said during hostage negotiations that he was upset by the earlier shootings and wanted to kill white people, especially police. The shootings followed a peaceful demonstration about this week’s killings of the two African-Americans.
This appears to be a vicious and calculated attack on our law enforcement community, but we must remember that violence of any kind does not solve violence against another community.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas
Johnson said Congress needed to act on background checks for gun purchases, including people with mental health issues.
“I am not anti-gun but I am for sensible safety procedures to acquire these kinds of weapons,” she said. “These aren’t for hunting.”
Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey, an African-American who also represents part of Dallas County, described himself as “deeply saddened that five men and women in uniform lost their lives bravely protecting the people of the DFW Metroplex, as they do every day.”
But he also worried, in an emotional presentation before television cameras, that his 10-year-old son, now a “cute 5th grader,” would one day be the victim of police violence unless there were greater efforts to build understanding between police and citizens.
“Just because I want that for my son does not mean I don’t support the police 100 percent,” he said. “Without police we would have anarchy in the streets, we would have no order, and the country that we live in wouldn’t be the country that we know today.”
Rep. Kay Granger, a Republican who is a former mayor of Fort Worth, said, “It is with shock and deep sorrow that I join all Americans in praying for the families and friends of the slain and injured officers of the Dallas Police Department and DART Police. . . .
“We will learn more about the details of this horrific ambush in the coming days. In the meantime, let us pause for reflection and healing, recognizing violence is never the answer, and the common humanity that unites us all.”
A prominent resident of Dallas – former President George W. Bush – issued a statement of condolence: “Laura and I are heartbroken by the heinous acts of violence in our city last night. Murdering the innocent is always evil, never more so than when the lives taken belong to those who protect our families and communities.”
Both of Texas’ GOP senators commented on the massacre. Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement, “My condolences are with the families of the officers who lost their lives in last night’s horrific attack, and my thoughts continue to be with the injured and those in the Dallas area affected by this unspeakable tragedy.”
Sen. Ted Cruz said on a radio program, “Last night was a horrifying display, and all of us simply watched in horror as police officers, who risk their lives keeping us safe, who rush into dangerous situations, found themselves targeted for murder.”
For Republican Rep. Joe Barton, who represents a district south of Dallas, it was a personal moment of pain when he spoke on the House floor for one minute about Brent Thompson, the Dallas Rapid Transit (DART) officer who was killed.
“The entire nation is aghast and shocked and in mourning about what happened in Dallas, Texas, last evening,” said Barton.
“He was a constituent of mine from Corsicana,” he said, adding that the officer had been married just a few weeks ago.
Republican Rep. Roger Williams, whose district stretches from Austin to the suburbs of Fort Worth, blamed President Barack Obama for the climate of tension between citizen groups and police. “The spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president, have contributed to the modern-day hostility we are witnessing between the police and those they serve,” he said.
Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose district is on the border with Mexico, from the outskirts of San Antonio to suburbs of El Paso, has a special connection to law enforcement: He is a former CIA officer.
“My prayers are with the victims and families of this shooting, and with the entire Dallas community,” he said. “Texans are coming together to mourn and find strength in each other, because we know we cannot allow attacks like this to divide our nation. I have a great deal of confidence in the ability of Dallas law enforcement to investigate this crime and get the necessary answers.”
Rep. Michael Burgess, who represents a district just outside Dallas, said, “Words cannot begin to describe my sorrow for the devastation that Dallas experienced last night. Today, the city of Dallas mourns the five precious lives that were lost in an act of senseless violence. This is not the way to move our country forward.
Rep. Pete Sessions, who represents Dallas, said in a television interview, “My house is about a mile from the epicenter of what occurred.”
“Dallas is a very open and, really, loving city,” he said. “We care about each other, and our police department is very professional.”