A Message from the NASW-TX Executive Director on the Uvalde School Shooting

Gun Control is Social Work
  • Implement strategies to reduce the risk of students gaining access to firearms and weapons, including parental awareness of gun safety (Social Work Speaks, 12th Edition)
  • Firearm restrictions for people with a history of violent behavior, universal background checks, homicide surveillance systems, and other measures to reduce injury and murder within families (Social Work Speaks, 12th Edition)

As a social worker, father and Texan I’d like to share my profound grief today as I continue to process the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas.  I know that corner of our state well, as my mom and her sisters used to own a piece of land just down the road from Uvalde, and I’ve spent a lot of time in that part of the Hill Country.  The community is a mix of Hispanic and White, tending toward conservative and possessed of a deep sense of Texas pride, but the stress is really on community.  In small Texas towns everyone shops, goes to church, sends their kids to school, eats and plays together.  Every shooting is a tragedy.  Every school shooting is a tragedy.  Every loss of life to gun violence is a tragedy.  But the impacts to our rural communities sometimes feel more shocking, as the violence rips right into the connected lives of the people there…..

Dropping my kids off at school and daycare certainly came with an added weight today, and a reminder of how immense the grief for the parents of the victims in Uvalde must be.  And that terror and frustration we are feeling as social workers must be amplified in so many kids across the country as they head into class, twisting what should be a safe space into one of uncertainty.  The Buffalos and Uvaldes and all the rest point to the deep need for a discussion about access to firearms, but I fear that’s likely not where we are headed in this state.  And that’s not okay.  My anger gets magnified when I imagine how this will be twisted politically by members of the Texas legislature to advocate for more armed teachers, more concrete barriers in schools and more guns to fight guns.  I’d like to highlight that the first victim was a grandmother in her own home.  If the shooter didn’t have such ready access to a gun not only would the kids likely still be here, but there’s a chance she would as well.  The answer isn’t more guns, it’s laws that actually impact who can possess one.

So what can we do?  You can tell our leaders they need to pass gun control laws.  This weekend, the National Rifle Association is holding their convention in Texas.  Both Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz, along with a host of other Texas politicians, are set to speak.  Now may be a good time to call, email, tweet at or otherwise share how you feel about their presence at this event.  Because 44% of Texans actually want More Strict gun control laws.  The will of the people is clear, but the opposition from lobbyists is a big barrier to reform.  So, call out the lobbyists, and hold our leaders accountable to the voters and not the big funders.

You can, should and must vote.  Educate yourself on where the candidates in your races stand on gun control.  There’s a Congressional Scorecard here, but the best way is to find out where candidates stand is to speak to their offices directly.  Reach out and ask them what their policy platform on gun control is.  Make them or their staff tell you what they’ll do to prevent gun violence.  Red Flag laws are important. We don’t have one in Texas.  Background Checks are important too.  In Texas, “handgun license holders in Texas are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a handgun.” That’s an issue.  And in Texas, you don’t need a license or any training to carry a handgun.  That calls into question the foundational idea of gun safety and the government’s role in protecting people in our state.

Support groups that are fighting for smart gun laws.  Texas Gun Sense and Moms Demand Action are great champions in this issue area.  You can donate time, money and your social work voice to those groups.  They are both great at organizing testimony at hearings.  Speak up at a City Council meeting about the impact of gun violence in our schools and communities.   Make this an issue that leaders at all levels discuss.  Get involved as a social worker by highlighting the resources, support and prevention strategies we can implement when we’re in schools, clinics, hospitals and communities.  Does funding more social workers help prevent gun violence?  Yes, and NASW has a toolkit you can use to develop talking points, program ideas and policy platforms to move beyond words and into action.

NASW-TX will continue to fight for bills that approach access to guns in smart and protective ways.  We do not believe and are not here to declare that all gun owners are irresponsible or dangerous.  But there need to be more common-sense legal barriers that prioritize community safety.  Losing children and teachers in such a horrific way should outrage us all, and we should take time to process our grief and anger.  Then we should call out the people who make laws in our country and state and insist that gun control move beyond an idea and into reality.  This one hurts a lot because of the size of the community.  But El Paso hurt a hell of a lot.  The Santa Fe high school shooting hurt a hell of a lot.  If there’s a next one, it will hurt too.  Our kids deserve safe schools, and social workers must fight to make that happen.

Will Francis, LMSWHe/Him/HisExecutive DirectorNational Association of Social Workers –Texas Chapter@socialworkwillwfrancis.naswtx@socialworkers.org