Following the tragedy in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers with an AR-15, there have been calls to reexamine America’s gun laws and pass strong gun control legislation, a continuation of a tense nationwide debate on gun rights spanning upwards of 20 years.
In a full-page open letter published in the Dallas Morning News, 250 self-described conservative gun enthusiasts advocated for more restrictions on gun ownership, including “red-flag” laws, expanded background checks, and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
These proposals are backed by public opinion as well according to a CBS News/YouGov poll. In the country as a whole, 81% support background checks on all potential gun buyers, and 72% support a federal “red flag” law. Within the Republican party, 74% support the background check proposal and 52% endorse a nationwide “red flag” law, showing that even the Republican Party has gotten behind basic gun safety proposals.
While many would justifiably argue that the proposals outlined in the letter do not go far enough to combat gun violence, the letter does show that there might be a turning tide on the conservative side of the political aisle in relation to gun control laws, albeit a change of heart that is held by too few far too late.
The full page advertisement was paid for by former J.P. Morgan Chase executive, Todd Maclin. The letter was also notably signed by some of Texas’s biggest Republican donors, including Dallas oilman Ray L. Hunt and Dallas investor Robert Rowling, both of whom are billionaires that have each donated 6-digit sums to Greg Abbott, other Republican candidates, as well as anti-Democrat PACs.
The letter praises Senator John Cornyn, calling him the “right man to lead this bipartisan effort” and praises him for “leading efforts to address the recent tragedies in Uvalde and elsewhere across our great Country.” Cornyn held talks with prominent Senate Democrats in order to jointly come up with a bipartisan package to combat gun violence, but many admit that any package that arises will not do enough. According to Politico, Senator Cory Booker stated that any agreement that came to fruition would not be “to the level of what we are going to need to end the daily carnage.”
Since Friday, a group of bipartisan senators have seemingly reached a deal on a framework for gun safety legislation, which, if passed, is shaping up to be the most significant piece of gun safety package after decades of inaction. The deal is notably supported by 10 Senate Republicans, and both sides seem cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the package. The deal, while making important strides on gun safety, leaves much to be desired on the Democrats’ side, with no expanded background checks to all gun sales and with an 18 year old still able to buy an assault weapon.
This letter penned and signed by big name conservative donors could be a telling sign of the pulse of the deep-pocketed members of the Texas Republican base, but these words will only have any tangible impact in Texas and in November if these signatories are willing to put their money where their mouth is.