Texas voters hold strong opinions on how to reduce gun violence

TEXAS — The National Rifle Association convention is set to take place in Dallas this weekend, one week before the two-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. But statistics show that in the wake of a mass shooting or even an anniversary, not many opinions are swayed on how to stop gun violence.

Gun safety is the most important thing for the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, Michael Cargill.

“Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re on target, ready to fire,” he said.

In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a package of Second Amendment bills into law, including making Texas a “constitutional carry” state, meaning no license is needed to carry a handgun. Some believe more guns create dangerous situations, but Cargill says more guns make someone safer.

“You protect yourself as a person. Those are the only reasons you’ll be able to pull a gun out and use it. If it’s not one of those, you can’t pull a gun out and use it. If you do, you’re committing a crime,” said Cargill.

But guns in Texas are sometimes used for more than protection. Just two years ago, a gunman fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. And last year, a gunman killed eight people at a mall in North Texas before ending his own life. The tragedies led to mixed ideas on how to prevent future shootings.

“As horrific as some of these tragedies have been, it’s somewhat remarkable that opinions towards gun access don’t tend to change. And this is because different voters have different views about the causes of these mass shootings,” said Joshua Blank with the Texas Politics Project.

Democrats overwhelmingly blame guns when a mass shooting occurs, while Republicans tend to blame mental health issues, safety issues and, in cases of school shootings, the parents of the perpetrator.

“Texans too often hear only one side of the gun safety argument,” said Roger Garza, the state director of GIFFORDS Texas.

The national gun violence prevention organization GIFFORDS launched a Texas program this week. They want to reverse what they describe as a prevailing conservative narrative against gun reform in the state.

“We want to be able to come in here, talk about common-sense gun safety solutions, and the fact of the matter is, is that Texans believe what we believe,” said Garza.

According to a May 2023 poll from the Texas Politics Project, 76% of voters support raising the legal age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and 72% support “red flag laws,” where courts can take away guns from a person deemed a risk to themselves or others.

“In the face of multiple mass shootings, both in Texas and in the nation, many people (have been led) to really embrace the possibility of, you know, if not incremental changes to gun laws, pretty drastic changes, including in Texas,” said Blank.

But reducing gun violence and mass shootings won’t be simple.