Texas leaders take aim at federal gun control plan
Jan. 16, 2013 at 10 p.m.
AUSTIN (AP) - A state lawmaker pushing a bill to defy federal gun laws. A governor disgusted by what he calls exploitation of the school mass shooting in Connecticut. An attorney general paying for ads inviting New York gun-lovers appalled by their state's new, toughest-in-America firearms restrictions to move here.
Welcome to Texas, where top leaders declared Wednesday that federal gun control measures unveiled by President Barack Obama are unwelcome.
"As a free people, let us choose what kind of people we will be," said Gov. Rick Perry, who questioned Obama's authority to limit gun rights under the Second Amendment. "Laws, the only redoubt of secularism, will not suffice. Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help."
Perry's swift and strong-worded response came after a White House ceremony where Obama unveiled plans to press a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used last month during the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children dead.
"The piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children, disgusts me, personally," the governor said in a statement.
Obama's proposals mark the most comprehensive effort to address gun violence since Congress passed the 1994 ban on high-grade, military-style assault weapons - a prohibition that expired in 2004. He also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don't require the backing of lawmakers. Those include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
First-term state Rep. Steve Toth reacted to Obama's announcement by organizing a rally Saturday on the steps of the state Capitol to protect the Second Amendment. He will be joined by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
Toth has introduced a bill in the Texas House seeking to ban statewide any federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The proposal by the Republican from The Woodlands would allow Texas police officers to arrest federal law enforcement officers attempting to enforce any such ban in the state.
Toth has appeared on television stations throughout the state and the country, promoting his legislation - even though the U.S. Constitution mandates that federal law prevails when contradicted by state law.
Meanwhile, fellow Republican and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott targeted new gun control measures just signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a web ad campaign launched Wednesday. Bankrolled by Abbott's campaign funds, it invites New Yorkers who feel their state's firearms laws are now too restrictive to move to Texas.
Anyone accessing some websites from Manhattan or Albany may see two pop-up ads. "Is Gov. Cuomo looking to take your guns?" says one. Another reads: "Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owners looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity."
The ads link to a Facebook site proclaiming, "You'll fit right in here in Texas" over the slogan; "Keep your guns, move to TX." It notes that Texas has no income tax and has created "more than 275,000 jobs in the last year."
But not every Texas leader expressed their displeasure Wednesday. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, released his own statement saying, "President Obama has put forward a common sense plan to increase gun safety in the United States."
"How many more tragedies must we endure before we step up and take action?" Ellis asked.