TX-23 congressional candidate John Lira said he is running to continue his passion for public service. He faces Republican incumbent Congressman Tony Gonzalez, who currently ranks 92 percent favorability with the National Rifle Association.
Notably, Uvalde, Texas, falls in the 23rd district with a 69 percent Hispanic population. And more eyes are on the congressional race than before, in light of the Uvalde shooting marked as the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.
Republicans across the state and the country blamed the rise in violence on mental health, video games, drag queens, rap music and more to deflect from consistently bowing down to NRA leaders and gun manufacturers.
Lira said Gonzalez’s nay vote against the most recent congressional gun safety legislation puts him on the wrong side of history.
Still, Lira said he would have voted to support the Protecting Our Kids Act but wished it included provisions on school safety and mental health.
“I’m not ready to say that I support an all-out assault weapons ban necessarily,” Lira told the Signal. “But I want it to be severely restricted to those who have proven capable, mature enough, and have some sort of level of need for this weapon. But if there were an assault weapons ban in a session that I could look at, I would strongly consider it.”
In reality, the emphasis on legislation and implementation of red flag laws, universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, and more lose the essence of the conversation on why these weapons are necessary to the average law-abiding citizen in the first place.
According to Lira, he understands firsthand the sense of power behind a powerful firearm as a former Marine but doesn’t understand the need for semi-automatic weapons besides marksmanship and sport.
“The folks that say it’s for hunting are the same folks that might argue they need dynamite to fish,” Lira said. “I don’t buy it. These are strictly for sport and kind of prestige in [many] ways. It’s part of the gun iconology that’s deeply rooted here in Texas. They are essentially pieces to have versus functional pieces to use.”
Even with his experience as a former marine handling semi-automatic firearms, Lira said the nuisance of “gun culture” and America’s normalization of violence led him to question his own gun ownership away from the battlefield.
“Now, with so many states allowing for the unfettered carry of a firearm anywhere in public, people are all on edge,” Lira said. “I never used to want to have a need for a firearm. Now I feel like I don’t want to be the only fool without one if anything ever happens. I almost feel compelled to carry one.”
Shortly after conflicting reports from the police showed officers waited outside for 78 minutes while the gunman barricaded himself in the 4th-grade classroom, the Uvalde Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety have been hesitant to release certain documents, according to reports by ProPublica.
Lira said that more rural communities like Uvalde are also vulnerable across the 23rd congressional district and called the Uvalde police response disappointing.
“I never like to bad mouth the police, but in this case, I think they failed to live up to those expectations,” he said. “There are even more vulnerable and less equipped and less trained police forces spread all across my district, and what about them. It’s really scary.”
Grieving Uvalde families are still trying to piece together their new reality. But the lack of transparency from Texas law enforcement agencies and hesitation to release information in the ongoing investigation most likely pours salt into an already open wound.
Nevertheless, Lira said the Texas government owes the Uvalde family some compensation.
“I think their [Uvalde police] actions and delayed actions or inactions directly led to increased carnage for some of these families,” he said.
In addition to speaking out on gun reform, the congressional candidate who describes himself as a moderate Democrat and devout Catholic said he also defines himself politically as pro-choice.
“I’m proudly a pro-choice candidate, and this stems from me being a father … and I have four nieces,” Lira said. “I want every healthcare option to be accessible and available to them as far as incorporating it in a healthy and balanced medical service that is part of a slate of services offered through the Affordable Care Act. Absolutely. These are important to women.”
According to his campaign website, Lira is also campaigning on decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana, liveable wages, labor unions, veterans, immigration reform, and more.
“I think in a lot of ways being a moderate, especially here in Texas, can be very valuable,” he said. “I think in this district specifically, a moderate is what they’re looking for. I’m not bending toward the district in a lot of ways. This is who I am.”
Election day for this race is Nov. 8, 2022.