Keyword: Gun Control
The Texas House of Representatives’ passage last Friday of HB 1927, a bill that would effectively allow for the unlicensed carry of handguns in most public places in Texas, was quickly followed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s comments to the press this week that, as of now, there isn’t enough support in the Texas Senate to act on the bill. In the wake of some police organizations’ high-profile opposition to allowing unlicensed and untrained gun owners to carry weapons in public places (which didn’t persuade the House majority), Patrick’s public decision to push the pause button in part reflects a tension between two prominent themes of recent Republican election campaigns: the promise to “back the blue,” a ubiquitous refrain of campaigns up and down the ballot in 2020, and the full-throated defense of an ever-expansive view of the Second Amendment.
With the Texas House of Representatives’ passage of HB 1927, which would enable most Texans over the age of 21 to carry a handgun in public without training or a permit, Texas is in line to become by far the most populous, most urban, and so the most significant state to enact a policy that only a few years ago was seen as a fringe (or at least a longshot) conservative cause, even among the state’s long-hegemonic Republicans. While one might be tempted to embrace the views of social media conservatives that the majority has finally exerted its will over the feckless RINOs and sell-outs in the Texas Republican Party, public opinion data reveals that the opposite is playing out in the legislature on gun policy: the aggressive minority of conservatives is, for the moment, driving the agenda on guns.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have regularly positioned themselves with an eye on each other and another on primary voters, donors and the state’s interest group universe, each trying to occupy the more conservative position. But in their responses to the recurring mass shootings in Texas, that has changed: The two have edged into conversations about “red flag” laws and increased background checks — positions that have been off limits for Second Amendment advocates housed mostly, if not exclusively, in the Republican Party.
While one might be tempted to attribute this repositioning to a rapid shift in public attitudes toward gun safety resulting from frequent, local mass shootings, public opinion data suggests that the more likely source of Abbott’s and Patrick’s change of heart might just be, as with so many other recent changes, an increasingly competitive electoral environment in which primary elections aren’t the only elections that matter.
The latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, which Ross Ramsey wrote about in a batch of stories released through the week, covered a range of subjects and issues with an emphasis on the current legislative session. As always, we’ll continue to mine the data and connect it with happenings at the legislature as the session kicks into a higher gear, but below are a first set of observations, hopefully more than hot takes but certainly less than the in-depth treatment we’ll give them in coming weeks.
We’ve gathered some relevant results from the dozens of items on gun rights, gun control, and gun violence that we’ve included in University of Texas / Texas Tribune Polling over the last several years, during which there have been at least 180 school shootings. They provide some context for what the governor included and left out in his proposals.
On the Texas side of politics, this week felt like a flashback to last Spring, as the anti-sanctuary city law, the bathroom bill, and the general tone of the 85th Legislature all got rehearings. It’s hard not to feel yet again that there are much bigger goings-on nationally, as students not on spring break staged a national walk-out to protest inaction on gun policy, the Democrats won a squeaker in a Pennsylvania special election, and we discovered what many presupposed, that Special Counsel Mueller has some questions about the Trump business empire and its connections to Russians. Read on for Texas public opinion data linked to some of the big stories from the week in politics.
As the party primaries got predictably nasty in the final week of campaigning before the March 6 election, Democratic early voting surged all week, a real phenomena that launched a thousand fundraising emails and at least a few flights of fancy, especially from those who can’t resist trying to turn a good thing into a fantastic thing. Donald Trump and Robert Mueller continued to make headlines, likely deepening the partisan divides in perceptions of their respective endeavors. Continue on for data on public opinion related to the torrent of political events this week, much of it freshly gathered in the latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll.
As the grim particulars of the Sutherland Springs shooting have become known in the days since the incident, the fact that a bystander armed with a rifle of his own shot the perpetrator and gave chase crucially transforms the terrain of the political interpretation of the shootings. The presence of an armed citizen "shooting in the opposite direction," as President Donald Trump put it hours after the killings, activates partisan attitudes about guns in Texas that can be effectively mobilized by advocates and political leaders to stifle discussion of adding even the most mild restrictions on access to, or ownership, of guns. The trope that the best antidote to gun violence by bad (or even sick) people is good people with guns resonates sufficiently with the right audience of Republicans so as to effectively seal off discussions outside the status quo.