The death toll from mass shootings grows while pleas for gun reforms in Texas are not heard

Gun reform advocates and parents of Uvalde school shooting victims tried and failed to get the Texas Legislature to pass gun restrictions. They say the fight isn’t over.

By Caroline Love, KERA NewsMay 30, 2024 10:00 am, , ,

From KERA News:

Parents of the Uvalde school shooting victims and gun reform advocates tried and failed to get the Legislature to raise the age to buy assault weapons. They say the fight isn’t over yet — but they acknowledge that getting any gun reform legislation passed is an uphill battle.

Since Uvalde, Texas has had several more mass shootings. There were 65 mass shootings in Texas in 2023 according to the Gun Violence Archive, which considers any single incident where four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter, a mass shooting. That includes a mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets, where a gunman with Nazi tattoos shot and killed eight people. Allen, as well as other parts of Texas, has also felt the impact of the everyday impact of Texas, including gun suicides and domestic violence homicides.

Survivors of the Allen shooting and other advocates for gun reforms protested near the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas. But the politicians who were there focused on courting the favor of the gun-rights lobby and its members by lambasting any attempt to regulate firearms as trampling on the Second Amendment.

The NRA’s leadership forum where Gov. Greg Abbott and former president Donald Trump spoke was standing room only. Several attendees wore red MAGA hats as they eagerly awaited to hear from the presumed Republican nominee.

Trump urged gun owners to vote for him if they want to keep their firearms.

“Let there be no doubt the survival of our Second Amendment is very much on the ballot,” Trump said.

Texas is known for its loose gun restrictions. Gov. Greg Abbott also touted his pro-Second Amendment record NRA convention in Dallas.

“According to the NRA, since I became governor, Texas has passed more significant Second Amendment protections than any other state in the United States of America,” Abbott said.

Those laws include permitless carry, which allows most Texans who are at least 21-years-old to legally carry a handgun without a permit, and the Second Amendment sanctuary state law. The statute prohibits state and local governments from enforcing new federal gun rules.

Rep. Justin Holland co-wrote the bill that became the Second Amendment sanctuary state law. He’s also one of the Republicans that voted in favor of a bill that would’ve raised the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.

Holland’s vote was a surprise — he helped flip the vote in favor of the bill. The proposed gun law made it out of committee. But it failed to pass after it didn’t move any further in the Texas House.

Veronica Mata said the fact the bill made it out of committee is a sign of progress. Mata’s daughter Tess was one of the 19 children that were killed alongside two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde two years ago.

“It was also a step in the right direction, letting us know that there are people that are listening to us,” Mata said. “We were able to turn to Republicans to vote on it.”

Families of the victims have sued state and local law enforcement over their delayed response to the shooting. They’ve also sued firearm company Daniel Defense, which manufactures the AR-15 style rifle the gunman used in Uvalde, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook and Activision, the video game company that owns Call of Duty.

Holland, whose district includes Rockwall County, has faced backlash from fellow Republicans for his vote for the raise the age bill. He recently lost his reelection bid in a Republican primary runoff. Abbott said on social media that Holland went against gun rights by voting for the bill. And the Rockwall County GOP condemned his vote on social media ahead of his primary race. The post said he went against Republican priorities.

Holland said that’s a common accusation in the Republican party.

“If you don’t do everything the way that certain group or a certain party says, then you know, you’re a Republican in name only,” he said.

Holland said he knew his decision could hurt him politically but said he doesn’t regret his vote. He said he voted for the bill in committee because he wanted to keep the conversation about gun safety going.

“You can still protect people’s Second Amendment constitutional rights and prioritize the safety of your communities and your children,” Holland said.

He said most of the people he talked to in his district were in favor of raising the age to buy AR-15s.

It’s a sentiment many Texas voters share. A University of Texas at Austin Texas Politics Project poll found that 73% of Texas voters — including 63% percent of Republicans — support raising the legal age to purchase any firearm to 21.

Shannon Flores, a Texas a gun owner and senior coalition manager of Giffords Gun Owners for Safety, said most firearm owners support firearm safety regulations — even in Texas.

Flores said gun lobbies like the NRA block those laws.

“I think it’s been well documented that the NRA is a big funder and can influence votes,” she said.

The NRA’s political action committee has donated thousands of dollars to Texas Republican campaigns — including to Abbott’s campaign fund.

But the gun rights group’s influence is waning. Membership and funds are declining. The former CEO Wayne LaPierre stepped down early this year. A Manhattan jury found him and two other NRA executives liable in a civil trial for mismanaging the nonprofit’s money.

Advocates for gun reforms see the NRA’s decline as an opportunity. And for Kimberly Mata-Rubio, it could mean a lasting legacy for her daughter Lexi, who was killed during the Uvalde school shooting.

“I want her name attached to change, not just how she died, but all of the change that’s coming after,” Mata-Rubio said.

When or if that change will happen remains to be seen. But Mata-Rubio said she’ll never stop fighting for her daughter’s legacy.

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