Second Amendment advocates showed up and spoke out to state lawmakers last week to oppose plans to restrict Texans’ gun rights.
The hearing was convened by the Texas House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, formed along with a companion Senate committee in the wake of shootings in El Paso and Odessa in August. Gov. Greg Abbott also formed a Texas Safety Commission and issued eight executive orders “intended to bolster the public safety coordination that can prevent mass shootings.”
Most citizens at last Thursday’s hearing spoke against the various “threat assessment,” gun control, and “extreme risk indicator” proposals they believe would take away law-abiding citizens’ constitutionally protected rights to free speech, self-defense, and due process. Many challenged the growing government intrusion as both anti-liberty and ineffective, and noted current laws are not being enforced.
“We already have enough laws on the books that aren’t being implemented,” said Donald Rutledge, a retired combat veteran and former armed security officer, noting “red flags” were ignored by officials in multiple mass shooting cases. “We need to get rid of all these gun-free zones,” Rutledge added. “We need constitutional carry.”
Grassroots activist Amy Hedtke agreed:
“The steps this committee needs to take to prevent credible threats to the public are to request a call for a special session, pass constitutional carry, and eliminate gun-free zones, because according to the exhaustive data by the Crime Prevention Research Center, 96 percent of the mass shootings are happening in gun-free zones—Victim Disarmament Zones.”
“As a 120-pound female, the right to bear arms is the great equalizer,” said Leigh Wambsganss, a concealed handgun license holder who serves on her local school resource officer task force:
“The Second Amendment is the ultimate right of self-defense … I know it makes people feel better to think tightening gun laws will make a difference, but let me be very clear: Tightening gun laws only infringes upon law-abiding citizens, not the criminals that perpetrate these heinous acts against innocent victims and specifically target gun-free zones so they know their targeted victims have no way to fight back.”
“I am against red-flag laws. They are unconstitutional, they violate due process, they violate our Fourth Amendment rights,” she added. “Universal background checks are unenforceable without a registry … and all around the world, registries have led to confiscation.”
“There are already federal laws against the transfer of firearms to felons,” said James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “It is a natural human instinct when something unfortunate happens to say, ‘There ought to be a law.’ I ask that you resist the very human instinct to want to do something more.”
Dickey stated the RPT is “100 percent” against gun registry laws. “Government power, once granted, is inevitably abused. A universal registry is the ultimate power for someone to abuse.”
When asked if the GOP is against “red-flag” laws, Dickey said the party opposes “anything that would remove your right to be presumed innocent or your right against illegal search and seizure.”
“I have reservations about these red-flag laws and just who is going to be implementing these laws, what triggers are going to be used,” said Dwayne Collins, noting the Obama administration tried to label gun owners and veterans returning from combat as potential terrorists.
North Texas resident Teri Horne agreed, telling lawmakers that government monitoring social media posts for “pre-crime indicators” is “akin to red-flag laws on steroids.” She urged extreme caution. “This is a very slippery slope.”
“We have to be our own first responders,” local firearms instructor Jerah Hutchins told the committee:
“I feel like the logical solution is to … advocate for citizens to gain for themselves a defense education. We must be able to combat and respond immediately, and the only way that is possible is to empower the civilian gun owner.”
“The Second Amendment community stands for safety, education, responsibility, accountability, and freedom, and we will continue to stand,” Hutchins concluded.
A few members of the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action spoke in favor of red-flag laws and other limits on law-abiding gun owners.
Gun Owners of America’s Texas director, Rachel Malone, live-streamed video via her Facebook page of the entire seven-hour hearing, which began with four hours of invited testimony from members of law enforcement, technology companies, and academia. The legislature posted an audio recording following the hearing.
State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo), who chairs the House committee, called the hearing a beginning. “This conversation is going to continue,” Darby said. “This is a process.”
Texans can contact House and Senate committee members and their own lawmakers to weigh in on the issue. The Senate committee met Thursday in Odessa and has hearings set for October 21 in El Paso and October 30 at the Capitol in Austin.