Rather than wait for new gun-control laws to be proposed, Texans for gun rights proactively took the opportunity to insert their views in the legislative process.
The hearings were convened by the Texas House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety on Nov. 7 in Odessa and Oct. 10 in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The committee’s jurisdiction is exceptionally broad, and somewhat vague, encompassing “all matters pertaining to programs and policies that ensure the safety of Texas communities by reducing the occurrence and impact of mass violence.” This could include strengthening enforcement measures, examining reporting of “threat indicators” in state and federal databases, examining digital media and technology in threat detection, evaluating staffing for professionals involved in threat prevention efforts (such as law enforcement and cybersecurity staff), and evaluating “extreme risk indicator” (also called “red-flag”) laws.
Texas lawmakers created this state-level House committee and a companion Senate committee, plus a Texas Safety Commission and a domestic terrorism task force, in the wake of recent mass shootings. Gov. Greg Abbott also issued eight executive orders that were mostly focused on standardized reporting of suspicious activities and convictions.
In each hearing, the House committee heard about four hours of invited testimony covering options to prevent mass violence, and then allowed public testimony. In both hearings, some of the committee members left before the gun-rights advocates could speak.
Social Media Monitoring
Commenters expressed concerns in both hearings about proposals to monitor people via social media.
- “Artificial intelligence is inaccurate. Facebook has had in effect, since before the concert shootings in Paris, a mass alert system for situations just like this. They don't use it because it doesn’t work,” said a computer technology expert with over 20 years of experience.
- “Forty-five million images of child sexual abuse were posted on the web last year alone. That picture by itself is immediate proof of an existing crime—not even subjective, maybe, might later cause crime. Those [images] are known, those are being found, and those are being reported. They’re not being followed up on. If something that crystal clear that is already being discovered is not being handled properly, how do you decide [on things that] may or may not predict some action in the future?” said James Dickey, chair of the Republican Party of Texas.
Many Texans voiced concerns in the recorded sessions about the threat to due process presented by “red-flag” (or “extreme-risk indicator”) laws.
- “I want to talk about veterans with PTSD. If we pass red-flag laws, veterans will be more discouraged about seeking treatment. They would actually rather keep their guns than go get mental health help. … Not only veterans but anybody with mental health issues that is a gun owner will be more inclined to not get treatment out of fear of having their rights taken away. … [Such laws] would cause harm to a group of people we should be doing everything we can to protect,” one man stated.
- “I’m certainly against anything that would remove your right to be presumed innocent or your right against illegal search and seizure. So, I'm certainly against the ability of somebody to accuse you of something and have that dramatically change your life without any proof,” Dickey noted.
Other Texans spoke about their right to self-defense.
- “I recently met a lady who said to me ‘You look like this weak, frail woman, and I would have never taken you for someone who carries a gun.’ My response: ‘It’s because I am weak and frail and a woman that I carry a gun. That gun is my equalizer,’” one middle-aged commenter told the committee.
- “Time magazine released an article stating that a thousand people have perished in mass shootings since the 80s, but over 321,000 people are raped and sexually assaulted every year in the U.S., according to the Department of Justice. And that’s just what’s reported. The scales are extremely unbalanced here, and as such I should like to keep my Second Amendment uninfringed,” said a female firearms instructor.
Some citizens noted that existing gun laws are not being effectively enforced, which is a nationwide problem.
- “I know it makes people feel better to think tightening gun laws will make a difference. Let me be very clear: Tightening gun laws only infringes upon law-abiding citizens, not the criminals that perpetrate these heinous acts against innocent victims and specifically target gun-free zones so that they know their targeted victims have no way to fight back. … Criminals and terrorists do not obey gun laws,” noted a female concealed carrier who helped spearhead a school resource officer task force used as a model at other schools.
Pro-Second Amendment commentators also had suggestions for the committee regarding the data they use to make gun-policy decisions.
- “How can rights be removed from citizenry at large when the most egregious violent acts are cherry-picked to represent the norm? Is it simply easier to push through a gun-grab policy by perpetuating a false narrative based on feelings of a few?” a woman asked.
- “I find the extreme lack of firearms knowledge that our elected officials possess appalling. You need to know what you are trying to legislate. When elected officials put out misinformation through large platforms that is blatantly false, you are the ones inciting fear and violence. The Second Amendment community stands for safety, education, responsibility, accountability, and freedom, and we will continue to stand,” the firearms instructor added.
The presence of pro-Second Amendment civilians in policy discussions is a critical part of the fight to retain American constitutional rights. The NRA’s network of grassroots volunteers can use your help to ensure we elect candidates who respect the Second Amendment next November. Please go to nraila.org/grassroots/volunteer to see how you can help.