Democratic Lawmaker Calls For 'Serious Conversation' On Root Of Mass Shootings

11 hours ago
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For more on the shooting, let's turn to Democratic congressman Vicente Gonzales. He represents Texas's 15th congressional district, of which Sutherland Springs is a part. Good morning, Congressman.

VICENTE GONZALES: Good morning. How are you?

KELLY: I am well. Thank you. And thank you for joining us on what I know must be a really, really difficult day there in Texas. Let me start with a big question on people's minds, which is why the shooter might have done this, why he might have picked this church, this town. What's the latest information you're hearing?

GONZALES: Well, I mean, it obviously leaves a lot to speculation, but what's been reported on the media has been that, apparently, he had - his in-laws went to church there. He comes from a community that's almost an hour north of this location and drove down there. And this was the church that his - I guess his ex-wife and in-laws normally congregated to. They apparently were not in church at the time of this incident. But that's what's been reported to me. You know, you got to be very careful with what's being reported. The media is moving so fast, and it's such a new developing event.

KELLY: Oh, absolutely. Always a point when incidents like this unfold that a lot of conflicting information is going to come in, and we need to sort through it very carefully. Well, what - I mean, you represent this area in Congress. What can you tell us about the town of Sutherland Springs? It's a tiny town.

GONZALES: Well, yes, it's a very small community. It's less than 700 people. It's a tight-knit community, pretty conservative area, very safe and tranquil. Most folks over there in that area are ranchers and farmers. And some of them work on the oil and gas fields in the area. But just generally good people - good small-town country folks. Certainly, the community doesn't fit the character of what occurred yesterday.

KELLY: I mean, let me ask you about the big-picture context here. So many people are wondering how something like this could be happening again a month after Las Vegas, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. What are you telling your constituents as they reach out?

GONZALES: Well, I agree. And I think that we need to start having a serious conversation in Congress and the legislatures across the country. What is the root of this problem? Why is the United States of America dealing with this at a higher level than any other advanced country in the world? And I don't believe it's just gun control laws. I believe we may be having a broader social issue. I mean, we have a lot of folks coming home from the military with high levels of PTSD. And I don't believe we've given them the mental health care they need to transition them back into society.

As the news is coming out, this young man was also a veteran. He had some issues before leaving the military. I believe he served a little time in jail. He had a history of domestic violence. And I think these are some of the issues that we need to be looking at. Mental health - when we talk about gun ownership, we need to assure that people who are responsible gun owners can still have access to purchasing their guns - but that it would be limited...

KELLY: OK.

GONZALES: ...And that it be, certainly...

KELLY: Congressman Gonzales, I'm so sorry. We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you for your time. That's Representative Vicente Gonzalez from Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.