His cheek wet with tears, President Barack Obama President Barack Obama recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP
His cheek wet with tears, President Barack Obama President Barack Obama recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Politics & Government

Texas’ GOP leaders protest Obama’s newest gun control proposal

By Anna M. Tinsley

atinsley@star-telegram.com

January 05, 2016 04:55 PM

UPDATED January 06, 2016 02:59 PM

President Barack Obama’s latest call for state and local governments to enact more controls on weapons purchases at gun shows and elsewhere is getting the same response it has for years: Most elected officials in Texas won’t budge.

And they’re liable to fire back, as they did Tuesday when Texas Republicans began shooting holes in Obama’s gun control plan that he hopes will curb gun violence and prevent some future mass shootings.

Texas Republicans said the president is making the wrong move and clearly exceeding his authority.

“The fact that he’s trying to do through executive order what he couldn’t get done through the proper constitutional framework is alarming,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth. “I think it speaks volumes that what he’s doing isn’t in keeping with what Americans want.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

“I think it’s a desperate attempt to have something on gun control as part of his legacy when he leaves office.”

Democrats locally and nationwide disagreed and cheered on the president’s effort.

“I think that he is absolutely not overstepping his bounds,” said state Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth. “It is his right as president of the United States to do what he can to protect Americans from tragedies that have been happening all too often.

“I’m a gun owner and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” he said. “This is not about taking people’s guns away. This is a necessary emergency action given our deadlock in Congress and the fact that many Republicans feel this is something not to be touched.”

Since Obama was first elected in 2008, many have feared new gun restrictions.

Waves of concern through the years have led gun enthusiasts to stock up on guns and ammo, causing shortages and price increases.

Legislative reaction

In Texas, the latest state to allow licensed residents to openly carry holstered handguns, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said the president again has gone too far.

Texas will take every action to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

“Despite the president’s latest attempt to undermine our liberty, Texas will take every action to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the president’s move was political posturing “and more propaganda” geared to “try and do another end run around Congress.”

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said state leaders could do a lot to help with the rising gun problem, such as not approving more laws like campus carry, which will let licensed Texans carry concealed guns on parts of some college campuses later this year.

Beyond that, Turner said, the president is simply trying to update the country’s laws.

“When the background law was passed, we didn’t have online commerce,” he said. “Our laws and rules have to evolve as our technology and country evolves.

You can support the Second Amendment, such as I do, and still support common sense safety measures.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie

“You can support the Second Amendment, such as I do, and still support common-sense safety measures, such as background checks, to make sure firearms aren’t falling into the wrong hands.”

State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, said the president has “once again demonstrated a disdain for the Constitution” and the separation of powers.

“The actions taken by the president are unlawful and should rightly be made by the Congress, who are the legislative representatives of the people and the many states,” she said.

And state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said that if the president has respect for the Constitution, he would not continue “to bypass our elected representatives in Congress and release unconstitutional executive order after executive order.”

When the Texas Legislature goes back to work in 2017, Krause plans to re-file a proposal he has unsuccessfully presented in the past. It’s called “Come and Take It” and it would let Texas law officers enforce only the firearms regulations that are in effect in the state.

The proposal would, however, let federal officers come to Texas to personally enforce laws as they see fit.

Back at home

As the president asked officials across the country to work together to prevent guns from getting in the wrong hands, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said city leaders have not yet addressed the issue.

“We will see what they do and then we will talk to our attorneys and see where we go from there,” she said. “We have not done any type of independent gun control.

“This is Texas and we follow the rights here,” she said. “I expect you'll see that continue.”

Questions have popped up occasionally for years about whether the city should reconsider its long-standing practice of leasing facilities like the Will Rogers Memorial Center for gun shows, but no action was taken.

In 2000, for example, then City Council member Wendy Davis wanted to allow only licensed dealers to sell weapons at gun shows on city property. Opposition to that stance followed Davis later to her successful race as a Democrat for the Texas Senate. She’s now out of office after losing the governor’s race to Abbott.

Mansfield Mayor David Cook said he’s a supporter of local control but believes any gun-related regulatory changes would best be handled by the Legislature.

“Until such time that citizens are bringing it to us, I don’t see myself advocating for supporting the President’s request,” said Cook.

Kennedale Mayor Brian Johnson said he supports gun rights, and doesn’t see any local action on the issue “anywhere in the near future.”

Congressional reaction

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, called on the president to withdraw his plan “and allow the Legislative Branch to do the job that the American people elected it to do.”

Congressional Republicans say the president shouldn’t skirt the legislative process. Congressional Democrats say the president did what he could because the GOP-led Congress won’t take action.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, said it’s time the president realize that it is Congress that makes the laws.

“He needs to make some attempt at getting people to come together when he is dealing with the Second Amendment, which is one of the most important freedoms we have,” she said. “I believe the enforcement of existing laws and rigorous prosecution of criminals is the best way to protect Americans — not more gun control.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, disagreed.

“His executive actions were necessary steps to protect the American public in light of congressional Republicans’ inaction,” he said.

But he said it’s just the beginning and Congress needs to act to close gun law loopholes and make other needed changes.

“Too many American families have lost loved ones due to gun violence and we should honor those lost by taking action today to prevent future tragedies,” he said.

Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he has introduced legislation — the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act — that would improve the current background check system without expanding it.

“If the president would roll up his sleeves and work with the bipartisan coalition in Congress who support legislation reforming our mental health system, together we could help prevent many of these tragedies from happening in our communities,” Cornyn said.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams said the president is continuing the same “anti-gun agenda” that he has had for years.

“The American people deserve a president who respects their constitutional rights,” said Williams, R-Austin, whose district stretches to Tarrant County.

Staff writers Sandra Baker and Robert Cadwallader contributed to this report.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley