Keyword: Gun Control
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.
President Trump Sticks to the Script in Invoking Mental Health in Response to Latest Texas Shootings
While President Donald Trump has cultivated an image among his followers for defying the conventions of politics, his initial response to yesterday's mass killings by a gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, strictly followed the conventional script used by GOP elected officials in the wake of mass shootings.
Speaker of the House Joe Straus continued his efforts to shift his party’s agenda into the realm of economic development and to re-engage the business sector. Meanwhile, over at the White House, apparently tired of Congress’s inability act on the ACA, Donald Trump used executive power to launch a frontal assault on Obamacare this week, with extremely uncertain political and policy results to come. Texas Governor Greg Abbott also expressed some very public frustration with Congress, who as a group had a pretty tough week even as they uncharacteristically tried to do their jobs by moving another disaster relief bill, which was passed by the House. One of those members, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, outraised his expected Democratic opponent, though also got word that he may have a primary challenger. And lest you think Congress deserves some sympathy, their response to the Las Vegas shooting devolved into the usual puddle of avoidance and utter predictability from all involved.
The cycle of initial shock and rote meta-politics that we’ve come to expect in the immediate aftermath of high-profile mass shootings in the United States has now moved on to the phase of political maneuvering over gun policy that takes place amidst the unpacking of the killer’s life. At the intersection of these two storylines, attitudes about the causes of mass shootings inform both the political debate and efforts by the news media, policy makers, and the public to understand and arrive at responses to incidents like the attack in Las Vegas.
"Campus carry" -- the ability of holders of a concealed handgun license to carry concealed handguns on public universities (all but one private universities have reportedly opted out using a loophole for them provided by the Texas Legislature) -- goes into effect today, including at the University of Texas at Austin. As we've seen intertwined increases in Second Amendment fundamentalism, heavily publicized mass shootings throughout the United States, and activism in Texas aimed at expanding gun rights, we've conducted extensive polling on gun-related issues over the last few years.