Opinion | In Texas, a gun turns one more

Coldly dismissing the Latino victims of Friday’s horrific mass shooting in Texas as five “illegal immigrants” was a new low for Gov. Greg Abbott, a gun-loving Republican. The previous low was when he said he was “embarrassed” that his state ranked only second in new firearms purchases and implored Texans to “pick up the pace.”

For the record, it is apparently not true that all of those senselessly slain in Cleveland, an exurb of Houston, had no legal right to be in this country. It is true, however, that one of the victims was a 9-year-old boy. It is also true, according to authorities, that two of the women who were killed sacrificed themselves by throwing their bodies over children to protect them.

And it is true that the gunman used an AR-style rifle — a weapon of war that once was banned in the United States and must be outlawed again.

This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart

According to survivors, the carnage began as a garden-variety neighborhood dispute. The suspect — Francisco Oropeza, 38, originally from Mexico — was firing a rifle in his backyard. This apparently was not unusual behavior. But on Friday night, the people in the house next door had members of their extended family staying over. Someone went to Oropeza’s house to ask him to knock off the gunfire because they were trying to get a fussy baby to fall asleep.

Oropeza allegedly responded by taking the rifle to the neighbors’ house and killing Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso, 9. All were reportedly born in Honduras, a country from which migrants to the United States often legally apply for asylum.

Think about that. How many times have you been annoyed by noise coming from a neighbor’s house or apartment? Reverse the scenario: How many times might a neighbor have had reason to wish that you, for the love of God, would turn down the music or shut off the leaf blower?

This kind of conflict happens every day in every community in every nation in the world. Such differences are usually resolved amicably. But sometimes, neighbors exchange words. In extreme cases, they might exchange blows. What they do not do, in countries that have reasonable laws about firearms, is fire guns. Yet the United States has more guns than people, and demagogic politicians such as Abbott want us to have even more weapons — which can lead only to more needless killing.

Just in the past month: A teenager was shot in the head (but fortunately survived) in Kansas City, Mo., for approaching the wrong house to pick up his siblings. A young woman in Upstate New York was shot and killed when the car she was in mistakenly pulled into the wrong driveway. A man and woman making a delivery in Florida were shot at for going to the wrong address.

Abbott would rather score points with the Republican base by claiming that everyone involved in the Cleveland massacre was “illegal” than grapple with the fact that huge majorities of Americans want reasonable gun control. We want universal background checks for gun purchases. We want red-flag laws to take weapons out of the hands of those judged to pose a danger to others or themselves. We want laws mandating that firearms be stored safely.

And according to a Fox News poll released Thursday, 61 percent of registered voters want a ban on AR-style assault weapons. Such a ban was in force from 1994 to 2004, but it was allowed to expire during the George W. Bush administration.

Earlier this year, a remarkable series of news articles in The Post explained how the damage done to a human body by a round from a handgun compares with the damage done by a round from an AR-style rifle. It is, put simply, the difference between a shooting that might be survivable and one that is not. Three-dimensional graphics showed the way an assault rifle’s high-velocity bullet creates a “blast effect,” damaging tissue far outside the bullet’s path and leaving a gaping exit wound. In school shootings committed with AR-style weapons, some children’s bodies have been so torn apart that they could be identified only by their clothing.

The usual reaction by Abbott and other GOP officials to mass shootings is “thoughts and prayers,” but this time the governor did not even offer that gesture. Instead, he disgustingly sought to dehumanize the victims with the label “illegal” — to devalue their lives and thus their deaths.

Hondurans who come to the United States are fleeing murderous street gangs in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. It is tragic that Friday’s victims might have been safer if they had stayed there.

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