The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How Uvalde’s elected officials have voted on gun laws

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as he speaks to the media at Robb Elementary school, the day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at the school in Uvalde. (REUTERS/Marco Bello)

The town of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, is represented by a range of politicians. It is rural, largely Hispanic and encompassed by political districts that lean conservative, but not by much.

Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. Uvalde, though, has elected politicians with a mix of views on the issue — including a Democratic state legislator who regularly votes with Republicans to loosen gun laws, and a top Republican senator who has sought compromise with Democrats in Washington on background checks. On Wednesday, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin (R), cursed out Beto O’Rourke when the Democrat interrupted a news conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the shooting. McLaughlin accused O’Rourke (who is trying to unseat Abbott) of exploiting grieving families for political gain.

Here’s a rundown of how the politicians who represent Uvalde have loosened or tried to strengthen recent gun control laws:

Gov. Greg Abbott (R): The governor of Texas is one of the most pro-gun politicians in America. Last year he pushed for and signed into law a permitless carry bill, making it so almost anyone over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without a license. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that it was "an expansion of gun rights so divisive Republican leaders in previous years refused to touch it.”

Just two years earlier, Texas was the site of two particularly horrific mass shootings — including a racially-motivated one in an El Paso grocery store — and Abbott and top Texas Republicans said they were willing to make changes to gun laws to keep them away from criminals.

But while Abbott signed a few measures — such as standing up an active shooter alert system and making it a state crime to lie on a background check form to buy a gun — Republicans defeated most of the other bills proposed by Democrats. He signed other measures easing restrictions on guns and making Texas a “sanctuary” state for the Second Amendment.

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R): Texas’s top law enforcement official regularly uses his office to push for aggressive pro-gun policies. He issued a ruling in 2020 that municipalities in Texas can’t restrict the sale of firearms in an emergency. And he has joined litigation when gun owners in liberal states like California or Hawaii try to challenge gun-control laws.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R): Texas’s most outspoken senator is also one of the most anti-gun-control in the U.S. Senate. Hours after the mass shooting in his state, he said that gun-control laws don’t work. In 2013, he led the Republican charge to filibuster a modest background-check bill that Democrats in Congress tried to move as a response to the elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R): Texas’s senior senator is actually out in front on negotiating with Democrats on minor gun-control legislation and has said he’s generally in favor of background checks.

Spurred by a 2017 mass shooting at a Baptist church in Texas, Cornyn and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) worked together on passing legislation that strengthens the FBI’s national criminal background check system, requiring federal agencies to better report people’s criminal history to the FBI. “The public demands that we act,” he said after the 2018 Parkland High shooting in Florida.

As recently as last year, Cornyn was in talks with Murphy, the Senate’s leading advocate on bipartisan gun-control legislation, to close a loophole that allows people to buy guns from an unlicensed dealer without a background check. Cornyn said that would have prevented a 2019 mass shooting at a church in Texas that killed a pregnant woman and an infant. Those talks fell through, though, as Cornyn wanted to ensure family-to-family trades wouldn’t be restricted.

After the 2019 shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Cornyn and Republican senators introduced a bill that they said would reduce mass shootings by prosecuting unlicensed gun dealers, expanding access to mental health resources and encouraging schools to enforce their Internet safety policies, among other measures. (Texas has been the location of eight mass shootings over the past 13 years, according to the Texas Tribune.)

Cornyn recently introduced new legislation to continue to strengthen the reporting system for the federal background check system, and that was signed into law in March.

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R): Uvalde’s member of Congress opposes gun control. He voted against two measures in the House last year to expand background checks and close some background-check loopholes. At the time, he broadcast his “no” votes, tweeting that he is “a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose gun grabs from the far Left.”

When asked about his votes Wednesday in an interview on CBS “This Morning,” Gonzalez tried to redirect the conversation to prayer for the victims or mental health, saying he had been working with the city’s Republican mayor and Democratic county judge to raise money for a mental health facility in Uvalde: “I’m happy to debate policy another time. But today, we should be united, we should talk about survivors, as well, as well as the victims.”

State sen. Roland Gutierrez (D): In 2020, Gutierrez challenged the sitting Republican state senator in this district — and won. “I think the people of this district have spoken pretty resoundingly that they want someone that’s going to be about progressive politics, progressive ideas that matter in their communities,” he said at the time.

The next year, when Texas Republicans passed its permitless carry legislation, Gutierrez voted against it.

“It’s astounding to me,” he told the Texas Tribune after the Uvalde mass shooting. “We’re supposed to create things. We’re supposed to create legislation to keep people safe. By God, to keep children safe. And here we’ve done exactly the opposite.”

State rep. Tracy King (D): The longtime state representative has voted alongside Republicans on recent laws loosening gun restrictions. In 2019, he voted for a controversial program to increase the number of trained school officials who can carry guns on campus. And in 2021, he was one of eight Democrats in Texas’s House of Representatives to vote for the previously-mentioned legislation allowing people to carry a handgun in public with few restrictions — though House Democratic caucus and law enforcement groups strongly opposed it.

correction

A bill to strengthen the background checks reporting system that Sen. Cornyn worked on was signed into law in 2018, not 2021. And another bill he introduced to continue to strengthen background checks was signed into law this year.

Loading...