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Police response to Texas school shooting draws scrutiny

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Law enforcement officers in tan uniforms stand talking in a huddle.

UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 25: Law enforcement officers gather outside of Robb Elementary School following the mass shooting there on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman, identified as 18 year old Salvador Ramos, fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images) Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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In today’s show, we’re talking about the aftermath of the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. As further details emerge, law enforcement’s response during the shooting is raising questions. We’ll be watching for more information about the timeline of events. Plus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s open to working with Democrats to address gun violence. But the Senate is adjourned for a week in observance of Memorial Day. Finally, we get a much-needed smile out of an interesting idiom.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Join us Friday for Economics on Tap. We’ll be livestreaming on YouTube starting at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Make Me Smart May 26, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: Do what you gotta do.

Kimberly Adams: And he did. Hello everyone I am Kimberly Adams, welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal, thanks for joining us on this Thursday, we’re back to what we usually do, a little bit of news make me smiles at the end. And and then we will be on our merry way, how about that. That sound alright. Good.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. Why don’t you go first today I went on quite a bit yesterday.

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, I’ll go first. I want to point out a couple of things in some news coverage of the day. And then I’ve got a more substantive thing I want to talk about. So I don’t know if all y’all have seen it. I’m assuming you have at least on your social feeds by now or by the time you listen to this thing. But the mess outside Robb Elementary on, what’s today? Thursday. On Tuesday where law enforcement was not only not going in, to take on the gunman, but was actively preventing parents up to and including handcuffing them and tackling them and putting them on the ground and preventing the parents from going in, because law enforcement wasn’t, is number one. Incredible. Number two, I can’t wait to see the investigations on what exactly happened. And then number three, some of the anecdotal stories in some of these articles, specifically the journal or New York Times about about this woman throwing off a security guard or a law enforcement guy who had tackled her and pinned her to the ground and going in going into the school while this whole thing was going on. And walking out carrying two kids is just incredible. It’s incredible. It’s, it’s a mess. It’s amazing. And incredible all at once. Just man.

Kimberly Adams:  Which is wild, because we’re already hearing calls from some quarters that we need more armed guards in schools or the teachers need to have guns, and you need more of what was already there, but was ineffective here. I have to say like yesterday, I mentioned that I you know, limited my consumption of of this. And this morning, I got up and I was like, you know what? I gave myself yesterday to have some space. But now you know, I’m going to be solutions oriented. And I’m going to, you know, face it. And that was one of the first videos I watched and I cried so much. I just, I was like, at my desk just sobbing this morning. And like, I’m ready to think about solutions and strategies moving forward and what we can all do to make this country better. But that listening to those families screaming as the gunshots, you could hear the gunshots in the background as they’re begging to try to go save their own kids. It was devastating. It’s unbelievable.

Kai Ryssdal: Unbelievable. And there will be many investigations. And I’m very curious to see what what finally becomes the chronology. Who was there, what decisions were made because some wrong decisions were made. I think we can say. Okay, more substantively. I am an, I’m an acquaintance of James Fallows, who used to write for the Atlantic now writes his own Substack. Jim is a is a private aviator. He’s a magazine journalist of long standing. And he is, to my mind one of the most insightful observers of the American political and national scene in the last 35 or 40 years. Jim has a post up today building on some things that were around on social the last couple of days about what happened inside that school. And I will, I will frame it only this way. The night of the shootings, parents were asked for DNA to help identify their children. Why were they helped for DNA? Or asked for DNA, because AR-15 rounds, going into small human bodies can render them unrecognizable. Okay. So, Jim’s post today is about whether or not the bodies of those children should be made public, not by officials, not by anybody in authority, but by the parents who would be the only ones who could legitimately morally and ethically do that. And he brings up three instances. One is Emmett Till, who was lynched. Not actually hung up on a tree, but he was beaten, tortured shot, tied to a weight and thrown in a river over what was a false allegation involving a white woman in 1955 in Mississippi. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, once she saw his body made the decision that the funeral was going to be open casket, because and  this is her quote, she wanted “the world to see what they had done to her son.” So that’s Jim’s example number one. Example number two, is the very famous pictures that Nick Ut  of the Associated Press took after the napalm bombing in Vietnam. And we’ve all seen I’m reasonably sure it won the Pulitzer, the photo of the girl running naked down the road, what you can’t see is the napalm burning her, burning her body, right. And that, of course, started to help change the tide of how Americans felt about the war in Vietnam, much as seeing Emmet Till was another step in in the very slow process of civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. And now, oh and also also talks about Abu Ghraib and some of the pictures coming out of Abu Ghraib in 2003. And now there’s this one. And the question is, would seeing the bodies of these children change the public discussion at all? And should the parents make that decision if they so choose? And Jim comes down where I come down, which is I don’t know. Because I can’t imagine. But read the piece, it’s really good. We’ll obviously put it on the show page.

Kimberly Adams: I’ve seen so many calls for this on social media, and people responding like you can’t possibly ask parents, you know, to do that. And, and, you know, I think I imagine it’s eventually going to happen. But I think none of us need to be out here calling for it. Because that’s, I can’t, we can’t ask a parent to do that. That has to be something somebody comes to on their own.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, totally agree. Last little thing, and this is just the deeply cynical approach here. But I want to point out the Senate of the United States is now out of session. Back in two weeks, yes, they’re going to have negotiations over a gun law, I guess. But as we talked about the other day, the more temporal distance you have from these events, the less urgent they become.

Kimberly Adams: Wow. I mean, I know there were extenuating circumstances. But look how quickly everyone moved on from Buffalo and shooting at the church in California. That kind of undermines my next story that I was going to bring up, which is that uh…

Kai Ryssdal: Oh sorry.

Kimberly Adams: That’s okay. It’s it is what it is. There are supposed to be talks. Mitch McConnell has actually said that he would support a bipartisan solution on gun violence. And he’s asked Texas Senator John Cornyn, I never know how to say that man’s name, Cornryn?

Kai Ryssdal: Cornyn. Yeah, Cornyn.

Kimberly Adams: To work with the Democrats on this. And, you know, maybe this time will be different. Chuck Schumer seems to be skeptical, but he’s like, we’re gonna do what we can. But I’m gonna latch on to any little bit of progress and hope that there is there are some areas where there may be common ground on background checks on red flag laws. There, I hesitate to say this, but on mental health care, I get really uncomfortable the way that mental health gets thrown around in these conversations. Because saying, by default that these people who do these heinous crimes have a mental health issue. Sure, you can make an argument that there’s something severely wrong with them, but when we sort of toss it, that they’re mentally unwell, or they have mental health issues, well lots of Americans have mental health issues, and treat them or live with them, or are medicated for them, and they don’t go around shooting people. And so to just make these broad statements, I think is harmful to making us all more comfortable with the idea of mental health care and the discrimination that you know, and stigmas around mental health care. And when you start linking, you know, people with mental illness should not be able to buy guns, it’s like well, is that going to then make somebody who could probably really use some mental health care and medication, not get care, because they’re worried about losing their access to guns. I just think that we should be very cautious and how we talk about that. Two, later on that, you know, it’s been layer after layer of horror coming out of this and those stories about the parents outside, that was one of them. But it was a gut punch this afternoon, to find out that the husband of one of the teachers who died in this terrible attack died saving her students, her husband died of a heart attack today. And, you know, you hear about this happening, that the stress of the death of a spouse can literally kill people. And it’s hard not to read it that way. But now, therefore, you know, dying. Anyway, my heart just goes out to their family and all the families. In a completely different topic and different area of the news, it’s, it’s hard to pay attention to everything, but Oklahoma’s governor signed into law today, the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country, bans abortion as early as conception, and that, you know, whatever that means, there’s exceptions I’m reading here from Tulsa World, there’s exceptions to save the life of the unborn child to remove a dead unborn child and to remove an ectopic pregnancy. Exceptions to save the life of a woman in a medical emergency, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest that has been reported to law enforcement. But this is another one of those laws that, you know, doesn’t have – that has basically, encourages other people to turn people in. Anybody who helps a woman obtain an abortion could be fined, you know, $10,000 or more. And this happened on the same – and also, the governor of Oklahoma signed into law, a bill that requires students to use the bathroom of their assigned sex at birth. So another one of those bathroom bills that North Carolina and others got into so much heat for. But this one seems to have just sort of slipped under the radar for folks outside of Oklahoma. But yeah, so that is also happening. And I know it’s a lot to pay attention to, but we kind of need to absorb it all.

Kai Ryssdal: For sure. For sure.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. So it is very hard to find things to smile about at the moment. However, we got a little chuckle today. So let’s do something amazing smile. I’ll let you set this up. Go ahead.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, so we had a whole conversation on on Tuesday about a phrase that I used in that podcast and I said something something blah, blah, blah. Katie bar the door. And it turns out Kimberly had never heard Katie bar the door. And…

Kimberly Adams: Nor had anyone in my family or my friends.

Kai Ryssdal: Nor anyone. Yep, yep. Yep, that’s true. That’s true. That’s true. And all y’all noticed. And so here’s today’s Make Me Smile.

Paul: Hi, this is Paul from Chicago. And I just wanted to back upKai on the whole Katie bar the door thing. I grew up, spent most of my childhood and adult, early adult years in Wisconsin, and we use that phrase all the time. So it’s not just a southern thing. Just wanted to stand with you Kai. Love your show. Keep it up. Thanks.

Kai Ryssdal: Appreciate that, Paul, thanks. There we go. I’m gonna take the win.

Kimberly Adams: And I’m gonna let you have it.

Kai Ryssdal: Thank you very much. It’s very good. Oh, my goodness. All right.

Kimberly Adams:  We got several of those by the way.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, we did. Thank you for thank you for presenting those. We’re back tomorrow with Economics on Tap on the YouTube livestream starting at 6:30 Eastern, 3:30 Pacific I’m sure we’ll do the Discord as well join us for news and a drink or two.

Kimberly Adams: No, I’m probably going to have one because I have a new recipe that one of my friends mom’s gave me in St. Louis last week, but it’s a strong one. All right, so please keep sending us your thoughts and questions. This has been a real hard week and I hope everybody’s taking care of yourself but you’re welcome to share what you’re feeling. Our email is You can leave us a message at 508-U-B-SMART. Voice Memos are great. All the things.

Kai Ryssdal: All the things. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with some help from our intern Tiffany Bui. Today’s episode was engineered, grudgingly I imagine, by Charlton Thorp.

Kimberly Adams: He’s a lovely fun person. Don’t, don’t do that to Charlton. Bridget Bodnar is the senior producer and the director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

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