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Talking Guns Over A Cup of Coffee: Two Very Different Takes On The NRA in Dallas

Ryan Poppe / Texas Public Radio (left); Krystina Martinez / KERA News (right)
Left: Alice Tripp is legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association. Right: Waed Alhayek is a student at UT Arlington and leads Rally4Reform.

With the National Rifle Association's annual meeting kicking into high gear today in Dallas, KERA sat down for Friday Conversations with two women on opposite sides of the gun debate. 

Alice Tripp is legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association. Her organization was instrumental in state laws allowing concealed carry, open carry and campus carry of guns.

Waed Alhayek is a student at the University of Texas at Arlington and leads Rally 4 Reform, Saturday's anti-gun violence protest planned outside Dallas City Hall.

Interview Highlights

What they would say if they sat down for coffee with someone on the opposite side of the gun debate:

Tripp: "What we need to find is the root cause for what's happening. It's not ever just one thing. It's what was missed, what can be done for that particular school, how the perpetrator was allowed to come in that school. Don't go with a simplistic vision of what happened to cause this terrible tragedy."

Alhayek: "I would say that we're not as different as you think. People think we're trying to take away guns, but that's not the issue we're focused on. We're trying to regulate the amount of gun violence.

"No one should have a military-grade weapon for defense and universal background checks are something that everyone can get behind because that ensures the right people are getting their hands on guns."

Whether the call for "common-sense gun rules" is unreasonable:

Tripp: "I've come to hate the word "common sense" as much as I hate the term "gun violence." The Ten Commandments pretty much covered it all; anything else since then has been kind of a run-around, knee-jerk reaction. We've got truck violence in some countries, pressure-cooker violence after the Boston Marathon. Let's look at the whole picture: the perpetrator, the school security, Facebook, let's talk about all of it. There are no gun laws missing that would've stopped any gun-related tragedy.    "

"We're not as different as you think. People think we're trying to take away guns, but that's not the issue we're focused on."

On the argument that gun violence isn't the issue, it's criminals:

Alhayek: "Without that gun, that person would never be able to do the action that they've done. When it comes to suicide, one of the biggest ways a person dies by suicide is by a gun. That person would never be able to shoot themselves with that gun. The same thing with mass shootings: You would never be able to kill so many people if it wasn't for that AR-15. It's how do we regulate that gun so that those kind of people don't get their hands on a gun."

Whether President Trump's call for programs to train and arm teachers would make schools safer:  

Tripp: "Texas is way ahead of the curve and pretty much every other state. It happened because of Sandy Hook, Columbine, all these other things. The president can call for it all day, but he needs to call the other 49 states. Texas has it covered."

Whether the call for regulation is a lost cause in the gun culture of Texas:

Alhayek: "You have students who are leading [this fight]. Our generation is the post-Columbine generation. We've seen tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. After the Parkland students stood up, even older people are saying, "Why have we accepted 'thoughts and prayers' on Twitter?" Our generation has so many stereotypes, that we're lazy, that we're entitled, but one stereotype we embrace is that we're stubborn. If we believe in something, we keep fighting for it until it happens. I think that's a good reason why this isn't a lost cause."

These interviews have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Rally 4 Reform was scheduled to take place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The correct location is Dallas City Hall, across from the convention center.

Note: The NRA has provided financial support to KERA.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.