Cruz's Democratic challengers struggle to differentiate themselves on gun control

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Ted Cruz has already drawn a couple of Democratic challengers in next year’s Senate race; current Rep. Colin Allred and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez. A new profile of the pair from the Texas Tribune claims that the two Democrats offer up competing views on a number of issues, including gun control, but after reading their positions I’m struggling to see how there’s any noticeable difference between the two when it comes to our right to keep and bear arms.

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Preventing gun violence is one of Gutierrez’s top reasons for running. He represents the district where the Uvalde school shooting took place last year and has spent the year energetically pushing for gun restrictions at the Texas Capitol.

“The Safer Communities Act was a good start, but not nearly enough,” Gutierrez said of the post-Uvalde federal law that increased background checks for gun buyers under age 21 and created new funding for state gun-safety programs.

Gutierrez said he wants to see universal background checks, red flag laws that allow judges to temporarily seize firearms from people who are deemed dangerous and an increase in the minimum age to buy an AR-15 from 18 to 21. As for stopping the future sale of such firearms, he said he is open to a ban with exceptions for law enforcement, military veterans and farmers who can prove they need such a weapon for something like killing feral hogs, a common problem in rural Texas.

Gutierrez said he was not ready to support a mandatory buyback of semi-automatic weapons, the idea that Beto O’Rourke controversially pushed in his 2020 presidential campaign. Gutierrez said he supported a voluntary buyback but questioned whether a mandatory program would work.

“It becomes something that becomes impossible to enforce,” Gutierrez said.

Allred credited U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, for his work advancing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last year, and Allred said any continued work in gun safety will have to be measured and in line with what can realistically pass a closely divided Senate.

Like Gutierrez, Allred backs universal background checks, red flag laws and raising the minimum age to buy semi-automatic weapons to 21. He also supports banning the future sale of such weapons.

“Those are all things that I think have broad, broad support and that I think we can get done right now,” Allred said. “I’ve always been focused on what can we do right now.”

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Let’s see… Gutierrez and Allred both say the BSCA didn’t go far enough, back “universal” background checks, “red flag” laws, banning under-21s from accessing their Second Amendment rights, and bans on so-called assault weapons as well. It even sounds like they both agree that Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s call for a compensated confiscation of lawfully owned firearms was a bad idea… at least from a political perspective.
So where exactly do the two candidates differ when it comes to the Second Amendment? Is it Gutierrez’s comment about possibly exempting law enforcement, veterans, and farmers who can demonstrate a need for a modern sporting rifle from his proposed ban on “assault weapons”? I’d call that a distinction without a difference compared to Allred’s position calling for a ban on sales of AR-15s and other semi-automatic firearms.
Robert Francis O’Rourke already demonstrated the futility of running for statewide office in Texas on an anti-gun platform, but Gutierrez and Allred both seem to believe that as long as they’re not calling for rounding up guns that are in the hands of lawful gun owners voters will eagerly embrace all of their other infringements. They seem to forget that O’Rourke himself ended up backing off his demand while on the campaign trail against Gov. Greg Abbott last year, first shying away from his “hell yes we’re coming for your guns” before leaning into it once again after the shooting in Uvalde, only to settle on a position of personal support while acknowledging that Texas voters weren’t in favor. That didn’t help O’Rouke in his gubernatorial bid, and I doubt that Gutierrez and Allred are going to win over any undecideds by largely aping O’Rourke’s gun control views.
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If Texas voters want a real distinction between candidates they’re going to have to wait for the general election, because the Democratic primary promises more of the same stale anti-gun proposals, at least when it comes to the nominal front-runners. There’s still room for a genuine pro-2A Democrat to throw their Stetson in the ring… the question is whether or not there are any of them left in the Lone Star State in a position to run.

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