Taking back the narrative on guns in Texas
Texas progressives must take back the narrative on guns in our state. For far too long, the far right has controlled the story. But as Texans continue to speak on their values, that dynamic is starting to shift.
The reality is, progressive values on guns are in line with a majority of the state and country.
Instead of going on the defensive when Republicans attack what they claim to be “leftist propaganda” and an effort to “take away our guns,” progressives must speak to our values.
What’s happening with the narrative currently?
Following the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Texas Democrats have called on Gov. Greg Abbott to hold an emergency session to solely address gun violence in Texas. He has not budged, and instead spends his days on Twitter attacking Texas cities.
At the Houston Democratic debate, El Paso native and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke about the need for gun reform and made headlines for his push for mandatory buy backs.
In response, Texas Republicans did what Texas Republicans do. Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) threatened O’Rourke in a Twitter post saying his assault rifle was ready for him. Twitter deleted his shameful post because it violated a rule forbidding threats of violence.
Cain and O’Rourke represent the two extremes of the discussion on guns in our state. However, it’s clear Cain is way further right of the center than O’Rourke is left of the center.
This whole “gun loving Texan” persona that Republicans have concocted, and that Briscoe Cain was attempting to emulate, is not an accurate depiction of the average Texan. Many Texans are gun owners, sure, but they have respect for the weapon and tend to be responsible gun owners. Cain’s post was not responsible and does not represent Texans.
While Texans want common-sense gun reform, the idea of a mandatory buyback program is a hard sell that needs to be worked up to carefully. Within this exchange, the main message got lost and Republicans once again took control of the narrative. It may not have been a good look for Cain, but it still made him the topic of conversation instead of the more important discussion about guns in our state.
This is what Texas Republicans do. They purposefully muddle the waters to avoid productive conversations on gun reform.
So how can we take control of the narrative?
This starts with messaging.
In order to move the conversation forward, we’ve got to squash harmful and misguided messages. And to do this, we cannot fall into the opposition’s traps.
Our country has a desperate need to address gun violence and implement reform. From the local level all the way up to the federal level, the conversations about safety in our country are ongoing and it is our responsibility to ensure lawmakers get it right.
We have to use messages that get down to the root of our morals and reflect what Texans believe.
At its core, the progressive message is simple: Our children and loved ones should be safe, regardless of where they live or their enthnicy.
In addition to that, there are other key messages that hit home with Texans and stump Republicans when it comes to guns:
- Texans should not have to live in fear. Our communities have been turned into war zones and we’ve had enough. Children shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they go to school. Texans shouldn’t have to fear being gunned down at their places of worship, work, while shopping at the mall, or going downtown with friends.
- This level of gun violence is unique to our country and impacts us all. Our country’s gun death rate is 10 times higher than other high-income countries. By early February, more Americans are killed with guns than are killed in our peer countries in an entire calendar year.
- Texans’ values are not being reflected in the laws we see coming from the Capitol. The most effective way to prevent this violence is to do what Texans already want. Support for stricter gun laws in the state has outpaced support for loosening gun laws for years. A majority of Texans favor universal background checks and red flag laws, and a plurality believe open carry will make them less safe. We’ve already reached a consensus on what needs to be done. Why haven’t our lawmakers?
- Gun violence is preventable, but Republicans and special interests are holding us back. Republicans are more loyal to the NRA and gun lobbyists than to Texans. They are holding us back from passing crucial legislation that would help to prevent further tragedies like those in El Paso and Midland-Odessa.
- Mass shootings need to be treated like what they are — acts of domestic terrorism. Guns have killed more people in the U.S. than foreign terrorism. We need the same kind of attention on this issue that previous acts of terrorism received in our country.
- Mass shootings will keep happening until something changes. There will be more mass shootings and preventable deaths until significant changes are made. So every time you turn on the news and hear about the most recent tragedy, just think of your Republican lawmakers in the Texas legislature who are complicit in these acts. And vow to vote them out of office come Election Day.
- We need action. We’ve seen too many lives lost to senseless gun violence. Thoughts and prayers from our lawmakers are not enough. We need our elected officials to act on life-saving, evidence-based gun reform, including universal background checks, red flag laws, repeal of open and campus carry, as well as bans on straw purchases, bump stock devices, and assault weapons.
Here’s what we want.
Progressives want common sense gun reform that helps protect all Texans from gun violence. These goals can be reflected in a few different legislative priorities, including:
1. Universal background checks
Background checks save lives. But in Texas, convicted felons, domestic abusers, and fugitives can skip a background checks by finding guns other ways. Lawmakers need to strengthen the system by ensuring background checks must be completed before guns are sold.
2. Closing the gun loopholes
Gun loopholes jeopardize the safety Texans by allowing people who should not own guns to bypass the system and buy guns online or at gun shows. These loopholes must be closed.
3. Red flag laws
Red Flag laws empower family members and law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are proven to be a danger to themselves or others. This is a no brainer.
4. Ban on assault and assault-style weapons
Gun violence has increased since the expiration of the 1994 assault weapons ban. It’s time to get assault-style weapons off the streets once and for all.
5. Stop straw purchases
Straw purchases occur when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person to execute the paperwork and buy a firearm on their behalf. This issue is widespread and threatens our public safety.
Together with these gun reforms and values-based messaging, we have the opportunity to create meaningful change in Texas. Our children, our friends, and our families deserve it.
Sign our petition to say you demand gun reform in Texas now!
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