Katelyn Fossett: Since you wrote that last article, do you think it’s gotten harder or easier to stake out positions in favor of gun control in Texas?
Wendy Davis: I think it’s gotten easier and sadly, it took repeated tragedies to make that the case. But I think the sentiment in this country has shifted because there is such an epidemic of mass shootings and we are waking up to the reality that we must do something to address it.
Fossett: Easier for politicians, too?
Davis: I didn’t say politicians. Because clearly Republican politicians … though they understand in their hearts that something needs to be done, they do not have the political courage to do it. I think what shifted is the sentiment of the majority of Americans, and I’ll describe to you why that is. Republican politicians are still cowards and afraid to rise to what this epidemic asks of them.
Let’s just take, for example, what happened last night … I’m just going to pick a congressional district: Texas’ congressional district 30. There was a runoff in a Democratic primary. This is Democratic, but it’s reflective of what happens. There are, you know, 850,000 people in that district — I don’t know what the exact number is — do you know how many people voted in that Democratic primary runoff?
Fossett: How many?
Davis: Less than 10,000 people. Less than 10,000 people decide who the congressperson will be. That same thing happens in Republican primaries. And typically, the people who are coming out to vote in those are people who are on the edges of either party. The more extreme people, the more politically motivated people. What’s happened in Texas is because we’ve had three redistricting cycles in the past two decade. One of them happened mid-decade because Tom DeLay decided it would, and in those three redistricting cycles, our state has become more and more gerrymandered, and we now have a number of Republican districts that are actually not reflective of the percentage of people who identify as Republican. In those districts, only the primary matters. And in those primaries, only the extreme voter matters. That means that those politicians feel like that’s the voter they are going to be held accountable to. And that’s who they talk to. That’s who they develop their policies for. That’s who they stake out their positions for. And that’s who they message to. That’s why what they do doesn’t match who we really are, whether we’re talking gun control or abortion rights or, you know, support for public education and so on and so forth. It doesn’t match the reality of who we are.
Fossett: I was actually going to ask you about this. There is an article that was published in Texas Tribune very recently that showed that as support for gun control measures have increased in Texas, usually in the aftermath of mass shootings, gun restrictions have just continued to relax.
Davis: That’s right. In this last legislative session after we had the horrific mass shooting in El Paso, we actually loosened gun laws even more. That is sickening and infuriating. And I think there are so many people across our state and across our country who are so angry about the fact that political, quote-unquote, leaders are not in step with our values and our concerns. And unfortunately, what that causes is an even greater withdrawal of participation in the democratic process, because it just reinforces to people over and over and over again that their voices don’t matter. Their votes don’t matter because the people who are in elected office are not reflecting their concerns.
What I’m really trying to spend my energy and effort on as I’m talking to people is to help them understand that, yes, we are a heavily gerrymandered state and are living the consequences of that in the Texas House and the Texas Senate. But those district lines cannot touch what we have the power to do in statewide elections. And if we would just believe in that power and show up and show at the ballot box that we disagree with Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the extreme positions that they have staked out on issues like gun safety, then we can make the changes we want to see.
Fossett: There might be people who say that this shooter acquired his weapon legally, so what effect would these restrictions have? What would you say in response to that?
Davis: There are so many layers where we do not capture and prevent someone from buying a gun. One of those, of course, showed up in Buffalo, where we had a person who had demonstrated a propensity for that kind of violence; it was widely understood he had those proclivities. And yet, there was no red flag instituted against him. We don’t have a red flag law in Texas.
And of course, where the governor and lieutenant governor went today was, “Well, this is a mental illness problem. It’s not a gun safety problem.” It’s both. It’s always both. If a mentally ill person has the capacity to purchase a weapon … We’ve got to create systems that capture that person in a net, and that creates the ability for a red flag law to prevent them from buying a gun. But here’s the rub: Whether that person could walk into a store and legally buy a gun or not, he could easily get it somewhere else because we don’t have the kinds of safety controls in place to assure that he doesn’t. He can walk into a gun show any given day and buy a weapon without a background check or a red flag law capturing them because they aren’t required to utilize those systems. So it’s just layer upon layer of failure. And we can’t point to these limited instances where this person didn’t get caught in a trap, when we didn’t set the trap. We’re so far from setting the trap.
Fossett: Do you think this can be a hinge moment? Can it be a moment that spurs politicians to act differently or are they still under these same pressures you talked about in your article?
Davis: I think this can be a hinge moment for a couple of reasons. This came on the heels of two other tragic mass shootings. And it comes at a time when candidates more and more are staking out a moral and conscionable claim about our duty to do something about it. The fact that this most recent one involved these precious babies that all of us can imagine our own children and grandchildren, and that we have politicians who are unafraid to talk about it and to invite us to participate in a solution … It can be a hinge moment. It truly can be. And I certainly hope that it will.
Fossett: What do you want to say to Republican politicians in Texas?
Davis: I would repeat what Beto [O’Rourke] said today: “This is on you.” Gov. Abbott, right after the shooting yesterday, said “This is horrific and incomprehensible.” I’ve never tweeted a tweet with, like, all caps, shouting and an F-bomb before, but I did in response to that. Because it is absolutely comprehensible. We can comprehend it because it’s happened over and over and over again. So yes, it’s comprehensible. We need to do something in the face of it. It’s incomprehensible to me that Republican politicians can continue to pretend as though this is not a problem that demands a solution. And it’s incomprehensible to me that they believe that holding office, for their ego and their desire for power, is more important than a child. I think it’s as if, given a choice — someone says to them: “You get to be governor again or I’m going to shoot this child,” they say, “I want to be governor again.” It’s literally that clear.
And here’s the ridiculous thing. If they took the right and moral position, as statewide elected leaders, they would still get elected to office. They’ve let that child be killed for nothing.
Fossett: What about to Democrats?
Davis: Take a page out of the book of Beto O’Rourke.
And there can be no room in our party for NRA “A”-rated Democrats. Last night we had an opportunity to boot one: Henry Cuellar. Our party leadership [who campaigned for him against his more liberal challenger] didn’t have the guts to do it.
Soruce : https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/05/26/wendy-davis-q-a-guns-00035533