News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

In Texas, Democratic Gun Owners Say Their Party Isn't Against Guns

Shelley Kofler
A group of gun owners met at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas on Friday.

In Texas, it’s generally assumed Republicans get the gun vote. But there’s a group of Democrats who are hoping to turn that around at the state convention in Dallas this weekend. Gun owners want to make sure the Democrats’ state platform doesn’t shoot the party in the foot.

Daniel Barnett owns an AK-47 with a 30-round clip because he likes to take along a lot of ammo when he target shoots. 

He’s not sure it’s something Democrats in other states get. But he knows the 80 Democrats jammed into a gun owners’ caucus do.

“We’re not New York Democrats and we’re not California Democrats,” he said. “We are a gun state.”

Barnett helped organize the party’s gun owners in 2008 because he wanted voters to know Democrats aren’t anti-gun. He thinks that perception hurts them at the ballot box.

“Our message as a party should be: ‘Texas Democrats do not want your guns; we already have our own,’” Barnett said.

These gun owners, for the most part, support background checks and what they call reasonable regulations.

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
This target was given as a door prize at a gun caucus meeting at the Texas Democratic Convention over the weekend.

  Many, including former Army soldier Valorie McKinney of Dallas, like the hotly-debated law that says Texans cannot openly carry and display their handguns.

“I would say ‘no’ to open carry,” she said. “I think that people should have a right to carry weapons and feel safe. I don’t think that people have a right to intimidate others because they have a weapon. I think it should be used for protection.”

Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, does support open carry.  She said so in a statement in February.

Lee Foster, from rural Wise County, wants to take his concealed weapons into public buildings where they’re currently not allowed. He was hot when he was told he couldn’t bring his piece into the Dallas Convention Center.

“There could be some idiot out there on the street that thinks he’s a tough jihad Republican,” Foster said. “He might want to shoot some Democrats; take some of them out; you never know. But if I have one it makes us a little more equal because I can shoot, too.”

Barnett is trying to eliminate a measure in the current Democratic platform that calls for limiting the capacity of gun magazines.

In the end, he says he just wants a party platform that Democrats in a gun-toting state can run on and win.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.