Bud Kennedy

In Texas, the debate isn’t over more gun control. It’s over whether to have gun laws at all

Let me explain something you should know about Texas.

Here, the National Rifle Association is considered moderate.

If you’ve spent recent days campaigning against the NRA or its lobbying power, please realize that in Texas, many Republicans take an even more extreme position against almost any gun laws or background checks at all.

Some Freedom Caucus lawmakers are backed by the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), which opposes any government licensing, regulation, qualifications, background checks or restriction of guns, weapons or ammunition at all — “the way our Founders intended.”

In Texas, that Ron Paul-affiliated group lobbies for doing away with the state’s license to carry and handgun training requirements.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has won an NAGR “Freedom Award.” State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has bragged about her NAGR endorsement.

The NAGR spent $2 million lobbying to the NRA’s $3 million in 2016, but outspent the NRA in 2013 and came close in 2014.

In ads and on Facebook, the NAGR openly mocks the NRA as “caving” and “compromising.” NAGR lawmakers openly attack NRA-backed Republicans if they support better background checks or mental health screenings.

For example, when Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) simply said Thursday he was open to discussing gun policy after a deadly mass murder at a Florida school, Stickland wrote on Facebook that Cornyn “needs to quit selling out conservative principles.”

“I’m not going to sit quietly while he trashes our 2nd Amendment rights. #2020,” Stickland wrote, referring to the 2020 election.

Stickland also wrote: “It’s time to arm teachers who want to be armed in our public schools. #EndGunFreeZones.”

In a recent Star-Telegram interview, Burton answered questions about gun restrictions by repeating over and over only that she supports the Second Amendment.

NAGR PAC money has gone to elect state Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), and 10 other state candidates including Stickland, Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) and Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington).

Some candidates with the NRA’s “A+” rating like state Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) or state Reps. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) or Charlie Geren (R-River Oaks) wind up challenged as not “conservative” enough.

“They [the NAGR] never attack Democrats — they only attack Republicans,” said Alice Tripp of the NRA’s Texas affiliate, the Austin-based Texas State Rifle Association.

“Our No. 1 criteria for our rating is whether they got something done,” she said: “We’re not rating on any other issue besides whether they actually get something done.”

“The NAGR is for unapologetic fighters,” he said.

“Gun owners are tired of the NRA negotiating our rights away. The bump stock issue [discussion of banning bump stocks after the October mass murder in Las Vegas] really turned off a lot of gun owners.”

Grisham agreed with arming teachers.

“We have got to allow our teachers if they choose to defend themselves and their students,” he said.

“Why am I required to send children someplace where they’re defenseless?”

Chris McNutt of the Texas Gun Rights PAC, the Texas affiliate of the NAGR, promised by phone to respond to emailed questions. He did not.

In 2015, conservative radio talk host Mark Levin descrbed the NAGR as “a little crazy group … just a little nutjob group.”

It has a big say-so in Texas.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, Twitter@BudKennedy