Nineteen children and two teachers are dead after a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
What happened was “horrible,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.
But, he added, “it could have been worse.”
“The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do,” Abbott said. “They showed amazing courage.”
The Republican governor offered his glass-half-full perspective during a press conference on Wednesday, before giving updates about the shooting. He extended condolences to the families whose loved ones were slaughtered by a local 18-year-old wielding a legally purchased rifle. Abbott also noted 17 people were injured in addition to the 21 killed.
“What they need more than ever is love,” Abbott said. “They need uplifting from all our fellow Texans, and all our fellow Americans.”
It’s hard to square Abbott’s remarks with the grim reality of what transpired at Robb Elementary School, where kids between the ages of 7 and 10 were just days from summer break when the slaughter occurred. Tuesday marked the deadliest attack on an elementary school since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
Abbott’s emphasis on law enforcement aligns with the broader messaging from the GOP since the shooting, which is, in short, that more guns, more cops, and more prayers, are what will prevent mass shootings in the future.
“Children are a blessing. God teaches us that,” said Abbott. “Parents in Uvalde had that gift taken away from them, stolen by a demented person.”
Others who spoke at the press conference also congratulated themselves for what they characterized as a courageous response from police and repeatedly echoed Abbott’s assertion that the tragedy could have been, somehow, worse.
Abbott also talked about the importance of mental health and discussed the role it may have played in the shooter’s actions. He announced an expansion of some of the state’s services, but he later seemed to contradict himself and asked: “Is there a difference between a mental health challenge that can be addressed and evil?”
“I consider this person to be pure evil,” Abbott said.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.