Giffords, student activists tell Houston to back midterm candidates who support gun control
Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, stopped at the University of Houston to try to get voters out in a state whose gun laws earned an “F” rating from Giffords’ organization.
Kelly and Giffords, who survived a 2011 shooting, have been active on the campaign trail for months in areas with contested midterm elections. She endorsed a endorsed a bevy of candidates, including Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the Democrat lying to unseat Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, in a race viewed as key to Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the House.
The pair is stumping for Fletcher Saturday and, through Giffords’ political action committee, funded a TV ad that is critical of Culberson’s stances on gun control. They were joined Friday night by survivors of school shootings in Santa Fe and Parkland, Fl., who spoke with Vox senior media correspondent Liz Plank for about 45 minutes before a crowd of more than 200 at UH’s Hilton Hotel.
The panel included Megan McGuire, a student at Santa Fe High School, where eight students and two teachers were shot and killed in May. Though McGuire, 17, is not old enough to vote, she joined her fellow students to urge support for candidates who support stricter gun control.
“I’m here because I realize that if we don’t do something about it now, it’s not going to happen,” McGuire said. “We have to change this epidemic and nip it in the bud immediately.”
Though Texas Democrats are targeting a handful of Republican-held House seats, much of the national attention has centered on the Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
Hogg was critical of Cruz in a brief interview before the event, taking issue with his opposition to universal background checks and funding for gun control research.
Hogg, asked about advocating gun control in a state that has been hostile to statewide candidates who support tighter firearm restrictions, said he has sought to reframe the conversation.
“Is Texas pro-safety? That’s the question that you need to ask,” he said. “The way that we advocate for what we talk about is in the same way that people that advocated for advocated for safer cars and roads weren’t anti-car or pro-car. We’re not anti-gun and pro-gun, we’re pro people not dying.”
Kelly said he talks to people who are critical of gun-control measures by first gathering what they do and don’t know about gun restrictions.
“It’s rare that people understand our gun laws, whether they’re federal or state,” he said. “So you often find people who feel that they are pro-gun rights and supportive of the ease of getting firearms, without realizing how easy it actually is for people who are criminals or domestic abusers or suspected terrorists.”
The former astronaut said he had not seen a recent TV ad that criticized Culberson for backing projects that would explore Europa, a Jupiter moon that scientists say could have the ingredients needed for life.
Fletcher has tied Culberson’s interest in space exploration to flood control, suggesting that he cares more about life away from Earth. Culberson has pushed back, citing his work on flood control, and shared a story on social media Friday that was critical of Fletcher’s statements about NASA.
Meanwhile, several local officials attended the event, including state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat who is widely expected to win her open race Tuesday for Texas’ deep-blue 29th Congressional District.
“Moms are tired of it. Responsible gun owners are tired of it,” Garcia said of gun violence. “Most Texans just want to be able to do their hunting, which is the way I grew up in South Texas (on a farm). I still own a shot gun. I have one at my house right now.”
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