It was a terrible day in Midland Odessa. On August 31, 2019, Seth Aaron Ator carried out the Midland-Odessa massacre. After his rampage in which Ator used an AR-15 rifle, 25 were injured and eight killed, including Ator.
Ator’s actions had all the signs of cowardice preceded by all signs that he should not have had a firearm that day. From the opening of the fire on Interstate 20 to the murder of a Department of Public Security soldier to his attack that killed a 17-month-old man and the murder of a postal worker whose vehicle was hijacked during Ator’s insane massacre .
State Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), who served as mayor of the city for eight years and as senator since 2004, rates the massacre as the most catastrophic he has ever seen as a civil servant. “It was just an unimaginable loss, such a senseless loss and a loss of life,” he said.
Seliger’s geographic district is one of the most confusing in all of Texan politics. It encompasses much of the panhandle and stretches in an anvil shape along the New Mexico-Texas border, a county wide, and then picks up a pattern of the Permian Basin, including Midland and Odessa. Seliger has made an outsider name for himself since he took office.
The 67-year-old center-right Republican, who never simply follows the political axiom of “power is where power goes”, has caused so many disturbances in the flow of power and the passage of bills in the upper chamber of the Capitol that he is constantly in Office is the way of personality and political expediency in principle. The Senate’s parliamentary rules state that a certain number of the 31 Senators must be yes-votes for a bill to be submitted to the vote. And Seliger is always able to be the swing vote on laws that matter most to Texans. Polls damn it.
The rave of this 87th legislature is a sideline, a policy of diversion that always makes the headlines unnecessarily but inevitably, distracting attention from fixing things that actually happen in a state legislature that hits every odd number for just 140 days are of importance year. And so instead of a sideshow circus, for example, public education is funded at the state level (almost 60 cents of each of our property tax dollars goes to subsidizing bottlenecks and budget cuts in Austin). And this special session is about the “constitutional carrying” of weapon carrying without permission.
That brings us back to Ator, Seliger and the massacre in the Central Plateau. Ator, a hermit whose family feared him and who lived in a cabin outside of Midland at the time of the rampage, was convicted after breaking into a woman’s bedroom and threatening her brother with terrorism. Ator should never have had a gun on I-20 in August 2019. However, he found his execution equipment through a private sale by a Lubbock man who was later convicted of selling firearms to other social outcasts – including a criminal, another on charges of felony, an illegal immigrant and Ator.
So it is the question of what is to be prevented in the event of improper carrying that more disturbed Ators own a firearm. That’s a question the majority of Texans ask. According to surveys, around 60% of Texans are against the measure, the most powerful of which is Blessed.
But here’s the kicker: Seliger finally voted for the 1927 House Bill last week despite believing the current system is working.
“Only 0.00433 percent of licenses to carry off crimes,” he said.
So what is another ator supposed to forbid? “Nothing. This bill only enforces Class A and B offenses for domestic violence and assault with injuries,” he said.
Governor Greg Abbott has publicly stated that he will incorporate the bill in its current form. However, that signing depends on the House and Senate broker a deal. The bill was withdrawn on Wednesday by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who is taking the lead, following a Rules of Procedure, a legislative maneuver to block further debate and passage of a bill in its current form 67 House Democrats.
“I was under a lot of pressure,” said Seliger, who finally agreed to make changes to the bill in the Senate. “I’ve put the issue through deliberately, taking into account feedback from constituents and law enforcement officers.”
He notes that he cannot recall a problem that aroused such anger in his district. “We had so many calls and messages that were just plain rude and vulgar,” he said. “That was very disappointing.”
While legal wear is currently in flux (lawmakers have until May 31st to thwart it), there can be little doubt that the law, in whatever form, is largely left to the Texas Senate’s outsider.
Jay Leeson can be reached at [email protected]