Keyword: Gun Violence
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.
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.
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.
Public Attitudes and Post-Orlando Politics: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, June 17, 2016
The week in politics has been dominated by the sad but also politically complicated aftermath of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. We’ve gathered polling data relevant to the unusually complex tangle of issues that intersect the terrible events in Orlando. Which of these you think matters most (or at all) likely depends on partisanship and political ideology – a facet of contemporary politics in the United States that made dramatically, often painfully, clear in the public discourse that has followed the Orlando murders. As both public figures and the general public seek ways to think about the Orlando killers, attitudes about a complex range of issues -- terrorism, civil rights, gun violence, immigration, Barack Obama’s presidency -- offer a range of contexts in which to frame the events in Orlando that were, at the same time, unambiguously terrible.
The state’s political leadership moved this week to publicly acknowledge what reporters at some of the major dailies have been saying for weeks now: the use of emergency leave as severance pay by another name (mostly) is a thing, and not a good one. Depending on your perspective, Speaker Straus either sent up a trial balloon or invested a little political capital in an agenda setting move as the 85th Legislature looms a little closer on the horizon. Speaking of trial balloons, Hillary Clinton launched a big blue one in a reference to competing in Texas in a very good long read profile in New York Magazine, triggering a renewed discussion of her prospects in the land of Hill & Bill’s McGovernite youth as well renewed attention the headaches and heartburn Donald Trump’s approach to Hispanic outreach is causing in the GOP. Conservative opinion leader Bill Kristol’s search for a conservative alternative to Trump in the presidential has apparently led him to one David French. Sadly, there was another shooting on a college campus, which resonated, if probably only briefly, with the ongoing movement in Texas toward the August 1 implementation of campus carry policies on Texas campuses.