News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Connecticut Shooting Sparks Debate Over Gun Restrictions - Even In Texas

David Chong

Nowhere is the gun lobby stronger than in Texas. But even in Lone Star country, the Connecticut school shootings have sparked debate over new restrictions on owning assault weapons.

Nick Porter’s Army and Navy Surplus Store in Irving sells everything from camping equipment, to hunting supplies to guns.

Porter says he doesn’t move a lot of rapid-fire assault weapons so a ban on selling them to civilians wouldn’t hurt him financially. But Porter believes taking away that right infringes on the Second Amendment, and he doesn’t think a ban would prevent violence.

“It is very uncommon for someone to take one of these type tactical rifles and use it in a bad way, for people,” said Porter. “They are almost always for sport and for protection.”

But State Senator Royce West, a Dallas Democrat says there are firearms other than assault weapons that meet those needs.

“We need to have a discussion in this state with the NRA concerning this issue,” says West in referring to the National Rifle Association which opposes just about any restriction on gun ownership.

West doesn’t believe citizens have a right to own assault weapons and says the NRA’s position needs to change.

“I believe in a person’s Second Amendment rights to hunt and to be able to have weapons and things of that nature,” he said.

“But the question is: Do you need to have assault weapons in order to engage in sporting activities? No, I do not (think so),” said West.”

The country had a 10-year ban on assault weapons for civilian use but it expired in 2004 when Congress refused to extend it.

Collin County’s newly-elected state senator Ken Paxton says he’s not sure a new ban would prevent those planning attacks from getting guns. But following the recent tragedies Paxton, a conservative Republican with Tea Party backing, is willing to put all options on the table.

“I would want to make sure whatever we do is constitutional. And think about it not just from an emotional standpoint but the legal standpoint and also what is actually going to work,” said Paxton.

West doubts the Texas legislature will go as far as restricting the ownership of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons. But he’s encouraged that even in this gun-toting state people are starting to consider new limitations.

Take, for example, Joe Handerson, a customer at the Army Navy Surplus Store. He owns an assault rifle but doesn't believe everyone should.

Handerson says the background check for gun buyers, which begins with a questionnaire, needs to be strengthened.

“Because people will lie,” observed Handerson.

“You fill out a form and you answer all the questions ‘no’ and they can be lying. And it’s true they may have mental problems. How can you verify a person is mentally ill?”

The process is supposed to identify people with mental illness and felony convictions and prevent them from buying firearms of any variety. But Handerson believes they often go undetected until they use their guns to hurt others.

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.