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Uvalde’s congressman dodges gun-control questions after shooting: ‘Not today’

Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales said the conversation should be about ‘love’ and ‘healing.'

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.) departs from the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 16, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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A day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, the Republican congressman representing the district said it was not time for policy debates. Instead, he argued that Americans needed to be united and that love should bring people together.

“Because what happened in Uvalde, Texas, can happen anywhere,” Rep. Tony Gonzales said Wednesday on “CBS Mornings.” “And we have to be united in protecting our children against that.”

But host Gayle King, who had asked Gonzales whether he was rethinking his votes against two gun-control measures, pushed back.

“Congressman, I hear you loud and clear,” King responded. “ … But this is the issue: This keeps happening, and we keep skirting around it, and we keep saying, ‘Somebody do something,’ and nobody does anything.”

The tense exchange came as Republican lawmakers face criticism over the GOP’s resistance to passing stricter gun laws in the wake of multiple deadly mass shootings this month. Critics have seized on the fact that two bills, aimed at strengthening reviews and background checks for firearm purchases, cleared the House last March but have stalled in the Senate with a lack of Republican support.

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After the massacre in Uvalde, a 2021 tweet in which Gonzales boasted about voting against the bills was shared widely on social media. “I voted NO on two gun control measures in the House today,” Gonzales tweeted. “I am a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose gun grabs from the far Left.”

A spokeswoman for Gonzales did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday.

A retired Navy cryptologist, Gonzales was elected to the House in November 2020 and now represents Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes Uvalde. He sits on the Appropriations Committee and co-chairs the Congressional Hispanic Conference. On his campaign website, Gonzales describes himself as a “strong 2nd amendment supporter” and said he received a “perfect grade” on his National Rifle Association questionnaire, which gauges lawmakers’ positions on gun regulations.

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On “CBS Mornings," King noted that Gonzales had voted against the gun measures and asked, “Are you rethinking that position this morning in light of what has happened in your state?”

“Gayle, I’m happy to debate … policy, but not today,” Gonzales replied. “I mean, today, my community is hurting.”

He explained that Uvalde families were still trying to identify their children and said there were people who needed to bury their little ones. “I mean, these are the things that we’re working with,” he said.

Republican lawmakers resisted passing stricter gun legislation in the wake of multiple deadly mass shootings during the month of May. (Video: The Washington Post)

After agreeing that she was also thinking about the victims, King replied that her point was that shootings keep happening, as “nobody does anything.” She argued that the drafters of the Second Amendment had “muskets” in mind, and not assault weapons.

“With all due respect, you’re in a position of power … to change things,” King said. “And if we can’t talk about it, and we can’t make changes, when can we talk about it? To me, this is a perfect day to talk about it.”

Gonzales responded that he grew up just 40 miles from Uvalde.

“This is my home — Uvalde isn’t a dot on a map for me,” he said. “It’s not a political football for me … these people I know — these are my community. I represent them. I love them.”

“Right now, we need love,” Gonzales continued. “We need compassion. We need people to come together as we heal.”

Before Gonzales launched into efforts to promote mental health in his district, King jumped in.

“We need love,” she said, “but we need change, congressman.”