We talk about how Texas wants “good guys” to have guns.
But when a good guy turns bad — what happens then?
But that often goes unenforced.
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This is important because ever since Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother and went up the University of Texas tower to his sniper's perch in 1966, more than half the mass killings in America have involved a history of family violence.
Fort Worth, Arlington and Tarrant County “lack systems in place for offenders to surrender their firearms,” said Kathryn Jacob, president of the local SafeHaven domestic violence shelter.
Sure, there's a piece of paper they might have to sign saying they don't have a gun.
That doesn't mean they won't lie. Or buy a new one.
“Our first mistake is relying on inherently dishonest people — people who have clear issues with power and control — to be honest,” Jacob said.
“I believe most of us would call these folks a 'bad guy with a gun.'”
Dallas County at least tries to do something.
A “gun surrender program” funded in part by county commissioners and Gov. Greg Abbott's office pays for storing offenders and suspects' guns at the county gun range while that case and any sentence are adjudicated.
But because that isn't pushed much in the justice system, only about 100 guns have been stored in three years.
At a press conference Feb, 23, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings rallied for more effort to keep guns away from anyone who beats a spouse or family member.
He talked about the how the killer in the November shootings at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church had a record of assaulting a wife and stepson. The killer in last year's Dallas police shooting had stalked and harassed women in the military.
Some reports describe the man facing charges in the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting as abusive to an ex-girlfriend.
“I do not want another mass shooting in my city,” Rawlings said: “ … I do not want one of these domestic violence criminals to walk into a Dallas school, or a Dallas church, and commit a mass murder because we didn't do our job. And they could do that, because they still have guns.”
Rawlings wasn't talking about gun control. He was talking about crime control.
“We all agree that the bad guys should not have guns,” he said: '“ … Everybody I've talked to, everybody agrees to this, so let's make it happen. People who beat their wives, or husbands, or girlfriends, or boyfriends, should not have guns.”
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said for anyone with a domestic violence conviction or case pending, “We're saying to you, we want under the law, we want these guns taken up.”
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson of Fort Worth has made it a mission to prosecute and punish family or partner violence. (It's worse here than nationally. At one point last year, half of the local murder cases involved a spouse, partner or family member.)
WIlson said through a spokesperson that prosecutors do ask judges for the paperwork showing that an offender or suspect does not have a gun, “but there's not really an enforcement mechanism.”
Some states have follow-up checks. Texas doesn't.
County Criminal Court Judge Jamie Cummings' court warns those convicted to no longer keep guns or ammunition, Cummings wrote in an informal email. But because there is no arrangement to accept or store guns, they're not actually turned in anywhere.
Cummings mentioned the possibility of working with Sheriff Bill Waybourn toward some sort of program tailored to Tarrant County.
It's not that easy to call for stronger gun enforcement here. I heard one current candidate for judge tell a campaign forum, “I will never take away your guns or your Second Amendment rights.”
That's not upholding the law, but the audience cheered.
In Dallas, Rawlings said: “I would suggest that anybody running for judge … should post tonight on their website that they vow to make sure they get the guns away from these folks.”
Ken Shetter of the One Safe Place crime prevention agency said the system relies too much on “the honor and integrity of offenders,” then doesn't make compliance easy.
“I don't think we're doing a decent job of making it clear to an offender what they should do, ” he said.
Basically, the system just prays every bad guy will turn back into a good guy.