OPED: Make Texas a Safer State
By: Eddie Rodriguez, Guest Contributor*
It is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid accusations of “politicizing” a tragedy, but whichever side of the argument you fall on — you cannot ignore the facts. Mass murders like the one at Sandy Hook remind us that as a country we have failed to adequately address the issue of gun violence. As a legislator, it is my duty to draw attention to this issue and try to minimize gun violence in Texas. In an international context, the United States has a much higher incidence rate in terms of gun violence than other countries. In the South, where there is a strong tradition of gun ownership, there is a particularly high rate of assault deaths involving guns, higher than any other region of the nation.
There is not, then, any appropriate or admissible justification for the clear fact that guns are getting into the hands of people who should not have them. Though there is no quick-fix to this problem, this session I am making it a legislative priority to take necessary steps making Texas a safer state. Recently, gun rights advocate and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson expressed support for closing the much debated but generally acknowledged “gun-show loophole,” which allows the sale of firearms by private sellers to consumers without background checks.
I believe in the right to bear arms for one’s own protection and it is not my intention to impede upon the 2nd amendment. The views expressed by Commissioner Patterson and I, particularly about closing the private sale loophole, make clear and practical sense: criminals and those with mental illness should not be able to buy guns. This is why I am drafting legislation that will close this loophole, requiring background checks at gun-shows for every sale. This is not an action that adds burdensome restrictions on gun owners, it simply clarifies the original intention of the law.
As of today, since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, 1,349 people have had their lives taken due to gun violence or negligence. This number is not marginal. This number is a sign that we need to be doing more; it is a reality we cannot in good faith turn our back on. We can be proud of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but only if we invoke that right with responsibility and respect, and do what we can, as people, to prevent the tragic loss of human life.
*Eddie Rodriguez is in his sixth term as State Representative from District 51, serving East Austin and Southeast Travis County. Currently Eddie serves on the House Committees on Business & Industry and Economic & Small Business Development. He is founder and Chair of the Farm to Table Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives, is Vice-Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and an active member of the House Democratic Caucus and the Legislative Study Group.