Citizens across the Lone Star State would be shocked to learn that while there are some candidates campaigning for office who are more pro-gun than Republican incumbents, the TSRA has so far taken a pass on endorsing them.
Over the past few years, conservative activists have had a rocky relationship with the state’s oldest gun group and NRA-affiliate. Led by longtime-lobbyist Alice Tripp, the TSRA has appeared to exist to provide pro-gun cover for incumbents regardless of their track record on gun rights. TSRA largely sits idle and willfully surrenders its bully pulpit as states with weaker gun culture surpass Texas on gun rights.
No better example of the group’s lack of courage can be found than their most recent legislative endorsements—and lack thereof—in the Republican primary.
Glaringly, TSRA chose not to endorse former State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) as he seeks to return to the Texas House. During his time in office, Toth was one of the fiercest advocates for gun rights in the state—passing the Firearms Protection Act which restricted federal control and regulations of firearms within the state boundaries. Toth’s TSRA rating, an A, is higher than the A (Qualified) rating of his opponent, Jackie Waters, yet the organization chose not to endorse him.
The omission makes little sense given the TSRA’s decision to endorse pro-gun Stuart Spitzer as he similarly seeks to return to the Texas House. Despite multiple requests for clarification and comment, TSRA has refused to respond to inquiries on the matter.
TSRA also refused to respond to inquiries as to why AQ-rated Susanna Dokupil was not endorsed in her campaign against B+-rated State Rep. Sarah Davis (R–West University Place) or why AQ-rated Chris Evans was not endorsed in his campaign against B+-rated State Rep. JD Sheffield (R–Gatesville) especially considering that both incumbents have voted against gun rights.
But perhaps most egregious is the group’s failure to endorse AQ-rated Lisa Luby Ryan in her campaign against State Rep. Jason Villalba (R–Dallas), an individual who took to the Dallas Morning News to advocate for gun control as recently as this past November.
“To be perfectly clear, the commission shall focus on ALL possible causes of gun violence in Texas including lax or deficient gun control laws and regulations in Texas. No shibboleth shall be off limits,” wrote Villalba.
“THERE NEEDS TO BE COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL REFORM IN TEXAS! If we expect a change in the outcomes, we must consider all inputs,” he added. “The time is now to DO something. Whatever that may be.”
Because of the oafish and establishment-friendly nature of the TSRA, Texas lagged behind the vast majority of the country on open carry for decades and provided a vacuum in which a number of authentic gun rights organizations have sprung up.
It wasn’t until after those groups began advocating inside the Capitol that the Texas Legislature finally passed open carry along with campus carry in the 84th legislative session. And legislation that would implement constitutional carry—removing the licensing requirement for Texans to carry a handgun—has stalled in the Texas Legislature with the TSRA refusing to hold lawmakers accountable on the issue.
To give them credit, that mistake was short-lived. After Texas Scorecard raised the alarm, the group reversed course and included HB 375 by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) in its list of pro-Second Amendment bills that have been filed in the Texas Legislature.
But still they refused to advocate for it—even going as far as to heap praise on the lawmaker most responsible for scuttling the measure in the Texas House. Thanks to the TSRA’s efforts, and more importantly the lack thereof, Texans got only table scraps from the Texas Legislature this past session—a bill that reduces the merely price of a handgun license.
So long as the TSRA continues to willfully surrender its bully pulpit in both the Texas Legislature and the Republican primaries, it will continue to hinder rather than help expand gun rights in the Lone Star State.