Collin County traditionally has elected Republican politicians who don’t support gun reforms. But there’s a growing number of residents speaking out for those reforms — and even against those politicians — after the mass shooting in Allen.
Allen’s Green Park was packed with protesters a week after a gunman killed eight people at a nearby outlet mall. Many of the protesters were mothers who brought their toddlers with chubby legs smeared with sunblock to protect them from the sun’s glare.
The protesters say they want action on gun violence — and will work to vote out the politicians who aren’t doing anything to stop it. Attendees at the rally repeatedly chanted “vote them out.”
Plano resident Katherine Vargas said she’s frustrated with lawmakers who won’t take action on gun violence.
“We have seen that they are refusing to take action and we are here to say enough is enough,” Vargas said. “We are fed up.”
Vargas, who has three sons under age ten, joined Moms Demand Action in 2019 after a gunman from Allen killed 23 people in El Paso. The group advocates for gun reforms like raising the age to buy assault weapons to 21. A University of Texas poll found that more than three-quarters of Texans support that.
But Governor Greg Abbott said he doesn’t.
More than half of Collin County voted for Abbott and Texas State Representative Jeff Leach — he cosponsored the bill that became the permitless carry law. Adult Texans can now carry handguns openly or concealed in public because of that law.
Vargas said there’s a reason Republican politicians like Leach and Abbott don’t support gun reforms.
“Our lawmakers are beholden to the gun lobby and extremists and unwilling to put the lives of our children before that,” she said.
Abbott got more than $20,000 from the gun lobby for his most recent campaign, according to Follow the Money.
Abbott told Fox News after the shooting that addressing mental health is the way to reduce gun violence. His press secretary told KERA in an email that the governor is in talks to raise the state’s mental health budget by about two billion dollars.
Leach got $1,750 from the gun lobby according to Follow the Money. He said on the House floor after the shooting that he didn’t know of any bills that could’ve prevented the shooting — but that mass shootings are happening too often.
Leach’s district includes parts of Allen — so does Texas Rep. Mihaela Plesa’s. She’s one of the three Democrats the county elected in 2022. No Democrats won Collin County in 2020.
Plesa’s race was close — she won by less than a thousand votes. But progressive politicians like Plesa are gaining momentum in the county. She said at the rally on Saturday they need to build on that.
“We can continue putting more people at the table,” she said.
There were tents at the rally where people could register to vote and representatives from Asian American voting groups. Allen is about 20% Asian.
Collin County’s Asian population is growing. Chanda Parhboo is the founder and executive director of South Asian Voter Education. She said the shooting at the outlet mall was a hate crime against Asians and immigrants.
“My world was shattered when I heard that our community has been robbed of feeling a sense of belonging,” Parbhoo said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Half of the shooting victims who died were Asian. Collin County has seen a spike in anti-Asian hate. A video of a woman telling a group of South Asian women in Plano to ‘go back to your country’ went viral last summer.
Authorities say the gunman was a neo-Nazi with a swastika and an SS tattoo that targeted the outlet mall for the shooting. But they said he was random in choosing his victims and likely targeted the location — not the victims.
Parbhoo says officials need to look deeper into the role hate played in the shooting.
“This is an infection our country must cure,” she said. “Today, I am here to say that hate groups have no home in Texas.”
“Hate has no home here” was echoed throughout the rally in Green Park, with chants of “not one more” growing louder as people called for an end to hate and mass shootings.
It’s a cry heard after every mass shooting — but whether or not it makes a difference to lawmakers like Abbott and Leach remains to be seen as many gun reforms languish in the legislature.