With anti-gun legislative majorities in place for the first time in nearly 30 years in Virginia, gun control groups are feeling pretty confident and cocky at the moment. So cocky, in fact, that they’re going to try to flip Texas in 2020.
“We sent a message to the NRA in their own backyard,” said former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who launched a gun violence prevention group after she was shot at a rally in Tucson in 2011. “We are turning the page on an era where legislators cashed gun lobby checks while communities lived in fear of shootings.”
Next on Giffords’ list is Texas, where the group has had recent success helping Democrats. The group spent more than $1 million on TV ads in Houston in 2018, supporting U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a Democrat who unseated longtime Republican Congressman John Culberson. The ads went after Culberson for taking money from the NRA and voting for weaker gun laws.
Groups like Giffords have “targets up and down the ballot in Texas in 2020,” said Peter Ambler, the group’s executive director. They include everything from the U.S. Senate race to congressional seats and state House districts — especially in the suburbs.
“Texas is going to be a big priority of ours,” Ambler said.
As I said before Election Day, Virginia’s elections on Tuesday were a canary in the coal mine for gun owners around the country. Now that gun control activists think that they’ve got a winning message to target suburban legislative and congressional districts, they’ll be using that playbook from coast to coast in 2020, even in states where it seems like the right to keep and bear arms is a bedrock part of the culture. Places like Texas, in other words.
Moms Demand Action, another group advocating for stricter gun laws, has already vowed that its volunteers will be out in full force in Texas next year supporting candidates — including three former Moms Demand Action volunteers who are running for seats in the state House: Becca De Felice in San Antonio and Jennifer Skidonenko and Paige Dixon in North Texas.
Giffords says its success helping Fletcher flip her Houston seat is evidence of what the group can do outside of Virginia.
“Even that was a sign of the times,” Ambler said. “The idea that a gun safety organization would, in the state of Texas, be able to go into the Houston media market and run negative ads against a Republican incumbent based on his connections to the NRA would have been thought impossible just a few years ago. The changing nature of Texas’ big, big suburbs and cities is really driving these shifts.”
I think turning Texas’ legislature into an anti-gun body might be a stretch for the gun control groups, but what do they have to lose besides money with their attempt? They believe they have a winning message in the suburban swing districts, so why not try to make in-roads in the Lone Star State. In 2020, gun owners can’t take any state for granted, not even Second Amendment stalwarts like Texas. We’re in for a national fight in next year’s elections, and there is really no safe state when it comes to the threat to our right to keep and bear arms.