While Gov. Greg Abbott assembled his first “gun violence roundtable” inside the state Capitol in the wake of the El Paso shooting, gun-rights supporters gathered outside the south entrance of the pink dome to rally against increased gun-control measures currently being floated by Texas lawmakers.
“We’re here today because we know that armed civilians save lives,” said Gun Owners of America Texas Director Rachel Malone. “We know that our ability to legally own and carry guns without government secures all of our freedoms.”
Meanwhile, inside the Capitol building, Abbott joined Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen met with the newly formed Texas Safety Commission. Second Amendment activists were outraged earlier this week when Abbott appointed Ed Scruggs, the president of the gun-control advocacy group Texas Gun Sense, to his Texas Safety Commission.
Mike Cox of the Texas State Rifle Association, the state’s chapter of the National Rifle Association, was also appointed to the commission, but many activists present scoffed at their inclusion due to their consistently anemic advocacy in the state legislature.
“Texas gun owners have a lot to bring to the table in a conversation on public safety, but we are gravely concerned that our voice is not being heard and our liberties are not being protected,” said Malone.
In the crosshairs is an oft-discussed proposal for so-called “red-flag” laws, in which guns could be confiscated without due process from those suspected to have mental health issues.
Shortly after the shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018, Abbott held a series of similar roundtable discussions to craft a plan to address school violence, leading him to request that lawmakers consider implementing red-flag laws in Texas.
After a series of interim committee hearings and pressure from gun owners in the state, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared the issue dead, saying, “I have never supported these policies, nor has the majority of the Texas Senate.” Abbott then quickly shied away from the proposal.
So far, Abbott has been mum on whether or not he would like to see the legislature once again consider red-flag legislation, but Patrick has stated that he still does not believe it would have support in the Senate.
“Any solution that aims to take away more guns from more people is counterproductive. Gun-control laws don’t reduce crime. They don’t keep criminals from committing evil, despicable acts. And they certainly haven’t kept us safe,” Malone stated.
As an alternative, Malone called for removing restrictions on gun owners, saying, “The Texas governments needs to encourage and enable more law-abiding citizens to carry a gun in order to save more lives.”
Such measures, however, were defeated during the recent legislative session, including constitutional carry legislation which would remove the state’s permit requirement in order to carry a handgun.
Also in attendance at the rally was Stephen Willeford, the hero of Sutherland Springs, who used his own rifle to take down a shooter who opened fire onto a church congregation in 2017.
“We as gun owners in Texas and across the nation have our backs against the wall because we keep giving and giving . . . and nothing that we have given stops a bad guy from getting a gun,” said Willeford referring to previous gun control measures, including a federal ban on bump stocks which went into effect earlier this year.
“When I ran across the street and I faced a shooter that had murdered 26 of my friends . . . the difference was good versus evil,” he added.
No lawmakers were present at the event.