Last Saturday a few hundred Texans gathered at the front of the Capitol to show support for sensable gun laws, particularly universal background checks. I spoke with one of the lead organizers John Woods about his group Texas Gun Sense and current state of the movement.
What is Texas Gun Sense?
In 2009 I started a Texas Chapter of Students for Gun Free Schools and have talked about putting this organization together for a while. Students for Gun Free Schools was founded by a Virginia Tech survivor, and I didn’t know it at the time but there were a couple of Virginia Tech survivors at UT that I met during the hearings on campus carry.
I personally became involved after lawmakers said they wanted to force colleges and universities to have guns in classrooms in order to quote unquote ‘prevent another attack’. Having spoken to a lot of survivors I knew that wasn’t something that survivors supported, and that the memory of these victims was just being used to accomplish an ideological agenda that had nothing to do with safety. Part of that ideological agenda you can see in their resistance to background checks. So, our goal in setting up Texas Gun Sense, was not to just address the campus carry issue, but issues of broader public safety.
Who helped organize Saturday’s rally?
We worked with the Texas Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense. Mom’s Demand Action used to be called One Million Moms for Gun Control but they liked the term “gun sense” so much that they adopted it into their own name. It’s interesting to hear it pop up around the country, people like this term ‘gun sense’.
What is Texas Gun Sense asking for?
The number one issue is universal background checks, we want for every firearms transfer to go through a background check. If it doesn’t, the person who sells the gun to a person who does some harm with it, then has to bear some portion of the responsibility of that crime.
We support people’s right to have guns but also be responsible and include background checks. The most frustrating thing is that the media narrative right now only has 2 sides. I often get calls from reporters that say ‘well we’ve got someone from the pro-gun side, now we need someone on the anti-gun side, and I say ‘that’s not me, that’s not our organization we’re in the middle’. It would be just as valid to say they had someone on the anti-gun side and they wanted to talk to us. Most of things we are proposing the vast majority of Texans’ support. Universal background checks is a no-brainer, 80% of Texans support it.
The 2nd Amendment says, “well regulated”, is this a narrative Gun Sense uses?
The 2nd Amendment is something that has been reinterpreted to death and some people believe if you own a gun there should be no restrictions on where you can have it, but the more relevant document here is the Texas Constitution. It says the legislature has the authority to regulate the wear of arms for the purpose of public safety. That clause was accepted when Texas was re-admitted into the union. So, just like you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, its important to understand that we do have limitations on certain rights.
What actions are you looking for from Congress and the state legislature?
Our number one issue is background checks, there are federal bills in the Senate and we have got bills filed in both the state House and Senate for universal background checks. Number 2 is fight back against these bills that would allow guns into the classroom. We feel it would be much better to take a look at something a vast majority supports like background checks before moving to more controversial issues like campus carry legislation.
In your speech at the Capitol you mentioned electoral consequences for Ted Cruz or others who oppose popular measures, will Texas Gun Sense be involved in campaigns?
No, that was merely speculation. Texas Gun Sense is not a PAC we are a 501 C3 and we will not be getting involved in campaigning. Our goal is to educate people about policies that will save lives.
What’s next, and how do supporters get involved?
We have phone banks every week, but the next big thing is this Thursday because Ted Cruz has threatened to filibuster the background check legislation. We plan to filibuster the filibuster by reading the names of people who have died since Newtown while Congress has failed to act, for as long as Ted Cruz and the other gun manufacturer cronies are doing that.
If people want to get involved they should first go and like us on Facebook and then look for events coming up to help out at, hopefully we will have a website up soon where people can put in their contact information.
If folks would like to volunteer or join our phone bank they can email Kristen Katz at Katz@GunFreeSchools.org
Follow me on Twitter at @Joethepleb.