Texas Politicians: Preaching the Gospel of Guns

Like many of you, the one-two punch of the terrorist events of last weekend left me reeling. Yet I’ve noticed a distinct shift in my perspective over the years. I’m no longer shocked whenever someone asks, “Did you hear about [fill in the name of the city]?” I just ask how many are dead this time. And while I’m not numb to gun violence, my attitude has gone from an indignant “Not again!” to a resigned “How many more will it take?” After all, we’ve been here before.

But this time, at least for those of us in Collin County, it’s different. The most recent Texas mass shooter (it’s tragic that I have to specify which one) grew up here. People I know lived in the same neighborhood as this guy; their kids went to school with him. Some utilized the services of his father, a mental health professional. Others know the family. In other words, the perpetrator is a homegrown terrorist. This time, it’s personal.

Before last weekend, North Texans could shove it away, comfortable in our belief – or at least our hope – that tragic events have nothing to do with us. Terrorists are created elsewhere; mass shootings happen by and to people in other places. But now, when the perpetrator is “one of us,” it’s become much more real. How could something like this happen to someone we know?

From what I’ve read, this guy became radicalized online when he fell in with the white supremacy crowd where misogyny and racism infect their messaging and beliefs. But when he looked to the community in which he lived, there probably wasn’t much to counteract what he was learning from his hate-filled pals. After all, neither women nor Hispanic people serve in many powerful positions around here. Of the four major cities in Collin County, only 17% of city council members are women. None are Hispanic. All four of the state representatives for Collin County are white men as is our U.S. Congressional Representative. Only our state senator is, as a white woman, somewhat diverse. Even the Board of Trustees at Collin College where he went to school only have two women members. None are Hispanic.

The news he probably saw about our Hispanic population concerned their immigration status and wasn’t overly positive. And, of course, we can point to the overall messages against Hispanic people made by U.S. Senator John Cornyn and the guy in the White House, especially hate-filled words like “infestation” and “invasion.” Words matter. The demonization of a whole group of people trying to make a decent life for themselves has consequences. Those words pointed him to a target. But you know how he was able to act on his hatred? The culture of, and easy access to, guns. And it’s not just a culture; it’s a gospel preached from the highest bully pulpits across the state.

“We’d talk about guns because we lived in Texas,” an acquaintance said about knowing the El Paso shooter. Yeah, no doubt. Texas is indeed a gun-happy state, so it’s no surprise that we’re home to three of the worst mass shootings in the last two years. Our leaders consistently elevate guns over Texans, evangelizing for their beliefs over social media. In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.” In addition to being wrong in his facts (par for the course for Abbott), his tweet was appalling. Given this attitude, it’s small wonder that the NRA had a field day during our last legislative session.

They prioritized firearms over schools (HB1143), landlords (HB302), those fleeing disasters (HB1177), government workers (HB1791), places of worship (SB535) and foster children (HB2363). Yes, guns over the most vulnerable of children. No measures opposed by the NRA passed during this session, including a red flag law, restriction of private transfers at gun shows, and a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of devices designed to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle. You know, the type of laws that might prevent mass shootings. The very same legislators who represent Collin County (all Republicans) advocate for guns over safety at every opportunity yet many of them hypocritically attended a local vigil mourning the victims of gun violence.

One attendee was U.S. Representative Van Taylor who has represented Collin County for nine years. If anyone exemplifies our local politicians, it’s him. His website says that, “As a social conservative, Van will always stand up for pro-life values,” but that clearly doesn’t include keeping people’s lives safe from gun violence. After all, Van’s never met a gun-rights law he didn’t like. As a Texas state senator, he introduced legislation (SB11) that forced public colleges to allow concealed firearms on campus and another bill (SB17) allowing people to open carry handguns. He also made certain that everyone could afford to carry a gun with his Yea vote on SB16 that whittled down the fee for firearm carry licenses from $140 to a mere $40. His “compassion” for those wanting guns extended to those over 60 and the indigent as they now only have to pay $5.

Now in Washington D.C., Van continues to place gun rights over the lives of his constituents. He voted against one bill (HR8) that requires a background check for every firearm sale and another bill (HR1112) that requires stronger background check procedures to be followed before a federal firearms licensee may transfer a firearm to a person who is not such a licensee. These are troubling votes because most reasonable people agree that ensuring people who buy firearms aren’t dangerous is something that can keep others safe.

But his “leadership” is even worse than that. In a meeting with constituents expressing concerns over the prevalence of guns in our society, he challenged them to provide examples of how guns negatively affect society. Yet the numerous examples given failed to sway his gun-rights stance. Similarly, when meeting with constituents terrified that they’re being targeted (a realistic concern given the El Paso shooter in particular), he questioned the kind of discrimination they’d experienced in Collin County. In each instance, he dismissed constituent concerns instead of listening and responding compassionately and appropriately. That’s not the kind of leadership we need.

His website says, “In order to keep our families secure at home, Van will work to safeguard our borders to keep terrorists and drug traffickers out of Texas.” The terrorist event in El Paso just proved him horribly wrong. Those terrorists are here and they’re us. His voting record on guns and his refusal to speak out against the language and laws that target an entire culture contributed to his failure to keep Texans safe.

These mass shootings must stop. There’s been an average of more than one mass shooting per day in 2019 and I’m sick of it. I don’t want hear excuses and false equivalencies; I want real solutions. And I certainly don’t want to hear boasts about promoting guns over lives from politicians like Greg Abbott and Van Taylor. It’s time we hold them accountable. If they won’t change, then we MUST vote them out and elect candidates who reject the Gospel of All Guns, All the Time. If we do, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll shift from “thoughts and prayers” to “actions and results.”

Share Your Thoughts