Pete Arredondo: I Know I Am, But What Are You?

So, it was all pretty much his fault. Now he’s gone; we finally got rid of him and we don’t have Pete Arredondo to kick around anymore. Who, or what, will we have to blame for the next one?

He was in over his head, perhaps one of the unfortunates whose inadequacies become apparent when promoted a level beyond their capabilities – unfortunate for him, but way more unfortunate for the 19 children and 2 teachers killed in the Uvalde school massacre. Texas Department of Public Safety Director, Steve McCraw, described Pete Arredondo’s response to the school massacre as “an abject failure.” In a move that showed how truly serious Texans are in addressing gun violence, the 14 members of the Uvalde School Board unanimously voted to fire Arredondo, the school’s police chief.

It wasn’t just the school board, and it wasn’t just Texas – the whole country was enraged and disgusted with what was seen as Arredondo’s ill-prepared response (or lack of response) when a killer commandeered a classroom of children for one hour and 14 minutes on May 24, 2022. He was vilified in the country’s media for 3 months on an almost daily basis. The nation’s palpable sentiment was summed up by a child’s statement made to the Uvalde School Board just before the casting of their unanimous vote: “I have a message for Pete Arredondo and all the law enforcement that were there that day. Turn in your badge and step down. You don’t deserve to wear one.”

Pete Arredondo may well have deserved the ire directed his way – and we should all be thankful that he was there to receive it. If not for him, who else would there have been to blame? If not for him, upon whom would we have vented our righteous moral outrage?

Governor Abbot should be extra thankful. In 2019 Abbot signed 10 bills to ease Texas gun restrictions. In 2021 he signed 7 more bills to reduce restrictions even further. Abbot should be grateful that there was a convenient Arredondo to dump on. If not for him, who would there have been to decry? If not for him, to whom could he have diverted attention from the blood on his hands?

Abbot didn’t sponsor and sign all those permissive bills in the midst of unleashed pandemonium. There was no chaos unfolding or the sound of gunfire to befuddle his mind. He signed amidst the congratulatory sound of clicking cameras, calmly dismissive of the repercussions his signatures would bring. He signed for perceived political advantage, with full knowledge of what transpires when more guns are pushed into the hands of more people. Governor Abbot was willing to put the lives of small children and innocent adults at risk for his own personal gain – and the consequences did come. Real people were murdered because of his signatures, but another man’s ineptitude stole the spotlight. Thanks to Arredondo, “The Eyes of Texas” have had elsewhere to look.

Pete Arredondo messed up really bad. 19 children and 2 teachers died from the bullets of a deranged killer armed with an assault rifle. Had Arredondo reacted to the chaos in a more heroic and competent manner, some of those lives would surely have been saved. If in the bedlam, he had made all the right decisions and had issued perfect commands, perhaps only 10 children and one teacher would have been murdered … or maybe it would have been 8 children and 2 teachers … or maybe it would have been 12 children and no teachers. Who can really say? Whatever the case, at least some of those lives would have been saved … but not all of them.

However, if Governor Abbot had not promoted and signed the bills that so easily enabled a troubled 18-year-old boy to buy two assault rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition, it’s quite likely that all of the 19 children and each of their protective teachers would still be alive today … all of them, not just some of them.

So, where is the outrage? Why was there such visceral disgust aimed at Pete Arredondo, and so little at Greg Abbot? It was Abbot’s action that led to the massacre that Arredondo so poorly reacted to, but he’s not likely to lose his governorship. Why fire Pete Arredondo in August but reelect Greg Abbot in November? Will the 14-member Uvalde School Board that unanimously voted to remove their police chief be unanimous in voting to unseat their governor? Will Steve McCraw, the Texas Department of Public Safety Director who called Arredondo “an abject failure,” see the abject failure of his governor and vote to remove him? Probably not – amidst all the outrage that’s been aimed at Arredondo, Texans seem poised to reelect Abbot as their governor. Recent polls show him still enjoying a comfortable lead over challenger Beto O’Rourke, who has repeatedly called attention to Abbot’s hand in the Uvalde carnage. How is it even possible? How can Texans appear ready to reward and reelect the politician whose actions predictably precipitated the slaughter of their children?

Is it possible that it wasn’t actually real – that the outrage aimed at Arredondo was somewhat of a ruse? Did Texans (and the nation) vent on Pete Arredondo to deflect awareness of personal culpability? How else to explain it?

Overtly we cherish and celebrate our children, but all across the country we repeatedly elect representatives who boldly vow to defend and enhance the availability of weapons to an ever-widening population. We do it clearly knowing that more people will die – that more children will be murdered because of the people we strive to elect. We want them elected because, without ever quite saying it, we’d rather have our guns protected than our children. When the inevitable killings and the massacres take place, we then try to find a way to assure ourselves that it wasn’t because of us. When someone like Pete comes along, we can salvage some of our decency; we can rage and rage at how he let it happen – it was him, not us.

“I have a message for all the folks who have vented on Pete Arredondo but still plan to vote for Greg Abbot or any other gun proliferation advocate. Turn off your alligator tears and stop screaming. You don’t deserve the pathos.”

Vern Loomis lives in the Detroit area and occasionally likes to comment on news and events that interest him in whatever capacity available. Some of his other musings can be found at Transcend Media Service, ZNetwork, CounterPunch, The Humanist, and The Apathetic Agnostic. Read other articles by Vern.