Role reversal: Cornyn’s extreme right position on guns makes Lt. Gov. Patrick look reasonable

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Gun violence, Politics

Things are topsy turvy in Texas. 

A right-wing conservative now backs a specific background check on gun purchases while a quiet, milquetoast Republican senator appears to take a very hardline following the shooting massacres in El Paso and Odessa.

The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek tweeted Sen. John Cornyn is not “embracing [Lt. Gov. Dan] Patrick call for stranger-stranger background checks. Asked about it, he shifts attn to fed efforts focused on other things.”

Drawing the ire of the National Rifle Association and right-wing Republicans, Dan Patrick recently proposed background checks for stranger-to-stranger purchases in private sales. The watered-down proposal (which doesn’t include checks for firearm swaps between family or friends) has set off a long overdue debate among Texas Republicans in a state where poll after poll shows Texans overwhelmingly support the idea. 

The Lt. Gov. has defended his position publicly, going as far as criticizing arch-conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan for being fine with, in Patrick’s words, “selling your guns to total strangers who can’t pass a background check because they could be a violent felon or someone bent on mass violence.”

Last month, Cornyn went on record saying that the idea of universal background checks made him “crazy” and argued that the proposal wouldn’t prevent mass shootings. Several days later, a 36-year-old man who previously failed a background check and acquired an AR-15 style rifle through a private sale opened fire in Odessa, killing eight people and injuring 25. 

Cornyn and Patrick’s role reversal on the background check issue is the latest indicator of trouble inside the Texas Republican tent. While Patrick is not on the ballot in 2020, he survived a surprisingly close shave in 2018 from an underfunded Democratic challenger. He has sounded the alarm in recent weeks about the threat to the GOP’s long-held control of the state.

Cornyn, who is running for reelection and has multiple Democratic challengers, is clearly more immediately concerned about the Republican primary, where he has two announced opponents and a potential third in State Senator Pat Fallon. Hence his hardline position on background checks and steadfast support for Donald Trump, despite Trump’s weakened political position in Texas.

Conspicuously absent in the recent dustup over gun background checks? Gov. Greg Abbott.

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

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