In the middle of reliably red Tarrant County, Texas, we rarely see 7,000 marchers on any public-policy issue.
It's even more remarkable to see thousands of teenagers on a beautiful spring afternoon in Texas protesting for stricter gun laws.
Since the Republican Party of Texas' official platform calls for completely doing away with all gun laws — and calls carrying a gun a “God-given right” — I thought I'd check with some party officials.
Local officials met in regional conventions Saturday. I asked county party Chairman Tim O'Hare whether anyone proposed changing the platform.
He burst out laughing.
“I doubt very seriously there were any resolutions about gun control!” he said.
Texas Republicans have responded to recent school shootings in distinctly different, polar-opposite ways.
Sen. John Cornyn and some House Republican allies fixed background checks to keep shooters like the Sutherland Springs church killer from buying guns so easily.
But even while marchers were protesting school shootings Saturday, pistol-packing state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, told a local party meeting that his No. 1 priority is to pass “constitutional carry,” which makes even Texas' puny handgun licensing and training rules and requirements optional.
After the Sutherland Springs shooting Nov. 5., state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, asked Gov. Greg Abbott and state officials to convene a special commission to address gun violence by investigating mental health needs and whether Texas has “lax or deficient” laws.
Two weeks before the March 6 primary, his district was blanketed with bright orange political mailers: “Jason Villalba's anti-gun agenda EXPOSED! ... Villalba publicly opposes solid pro-gun constitutional carry legislation!”
So does the Texas State Rifle Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association. (“Constitutional carry” is even too extreme for the NRA.)
But on March 6, Villalba lost by 743 votes.
His opponent, Lisa Luby Ryan, had complained at a Feb. 15 campaign debate that her autistic 29-year-old son was robbed by three “black thugs” and “I will fight all day long against gun regulation.”
“You would have thought I'd proposed repealing the Second Amendment,” Villalba said Tuesday.
Republicans have to consider taking action to address gun violence, he said, even if it means closing loopholes or addressing faulty background checks.
“Gun issues are part of the Holy Trinity of modern Republican orthodoxy,” he said, listing: “Gun issues, abortion, immigration — if you speak outside the confines of what is considered acceptable, you risk being taken out.”
In a city where a local Tea Party group dominates municipal elections, Colleyville Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Lindamood wrote on Facebook this week that students protesting guns should “give up gangsta rap, [and] all songs that entice violence, drugs, cussing and rape. Plus all video games that promote killing, breaking the law or have sexual innuendo. … Please take off all phone apps that are rated above PG-13. … If you want to be leaders, show us all by example.”
Bashing or belittling teenagers does not seem like the best way to win future votes.
“I think it's dangerous for Republicans to attack the student protests,” Villalba said.
“It'd be different if it were four kids with a flag saying 'Take away their guns!' This was millions of kids around the country trying to find solutions to a difficult and vexing problem.”
Sometimes they seem like the grown-ups.