San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says state leaders, not locals, can prevent mass shootings

A Conversation with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg

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The city of San Antonio sent emergency responders to Uvalde on Tuesday after a gunman opened fire and killed 21 people at an elementary school there. Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, Texas’ biggest city near Uvalde, regrets that his city and others across the state can only react to large shootings, noting that local leaders do not have the ability to prevent mass shootings before they happen.

“The reality is here at the local level in the state of Texas, they have largely tied our hands with regard to making any sort of change and put that responsibility on themselves,” Nirenberg said Wednesday during an interview with The Texas Tribune’s editor in chief Sewell Chan at San Antonio College. “In the last 10, 15 years as we’ve endured mass shooting after mass shooting and children dying in schools in multiple cities in targeted violence, it would be one thing if we could say, ‘Let’s try to make it better in Texas — at the very least don’t make it worse.’ And state leadership in this state have been hellbent on making it worse.”

Nirenberg added: “At some point, I and every other voter in the state of Texas needs to demand an answer, needs to hear their answers of how they’re going to end this scourge of violence that’s happening all across the state and across our country.”

When asked about arming teachers and introducing more firearms into schools to better protect students, an approach pushed by Texas Republican leaders, Nirenberg dismissed the idea.

“If more guns in our community made us a safer community, the United States would have been the safest community in the world a long time ago,” Nirenberg said.

At that point, the audience broke into its only applause of the nearly hourlong conversation.

The deadly shooting dominated the beginning of the previously scheduled interview, which was slated to delve into life in Texas’ second-largest city. After discussing Tuesday’s disaster, Nirenberg also addressed San Antonio’s emergence from the pandemic, the local economy and access to services such as transportation and health care.

Nirenberg said he’s prioritizing an equitable recovery from the pandemic, especially after so many people’s lives were upended from one day to the next when so much of the country shut down in 2020.

Nirenberg also discussed housing affordability and homelessness, issues San Antonio voters sought to address earlier this month when they approved a $1.2 billion bond program, the largest in city history, which would fund projects related to housing affordability, street improvements and drainage enhancements, among others.

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