Though I’m a veteran and a gun-owning Texan, the NRA…

Gun Rights

As the group returns for its annual convention, it does nothing but showcase a billion-dollar marketing campaign peddling paranoia and fantasies.

This week, the National Rifle Association will, once again, host its convention in Texas and, once again, attempt to overstate its influence. After years of being crippled by corruption—drowning in multiple lawsuits, losing millions of members, and forcing out its scandal-ridden CEO Wayne LaPierre—the NRA comes limping back to the Lone Star State to lick its wounds.

As a veteran, fifth generation Texan, and GIFFORDS Gun Owner for Safety, I’m telling the NRA that they’re not welcome here.

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In Texas, we don’t hide from the truth. And the truth is that the NRA has long-ago hijacked gun culture, and its convention does nothing but showcase the gun industry’s billion-dollar marketing campaigns that peddle paranoia and irresponsible fantasies. 

I know responsible gun ownership. Like many Texans, I grew up around firearms. When I served as a commander of an Army Reserve small arms training company, the safe handling and storage of firearms was my job. 

Putting the safety of our fellow service members and our communities above our own lives was a core value in the military. The NRA spits on that value by pushing a purely selfish message of the individual above all else: “rights” with no regard to responsibilities. It’s offensive to those of us who actually have protected Americans and defended our freedoms.

Today, America faces an enemy within: the for-profit gun lobby and the politicians in its pocket. Since the beginning of this century alone, we have lost more American lives to gun violence than all of our nation’s wars combined.

The NRA claims to be “the longest-standing civil rights organization,” with lofty talk of defending the 2nd Amendment and “freedom.” But the NRA sold the freedoms and safety of our communities in exchange for corporate profits a long time ago. Americans cannot pursue happiness while looking over their shoulders and planning escape routes.

This is no way to live, and we don’t have to. Yet Governor Greg Abbott has only passed legislation that has made gun violence worse.

Abbott signed permitless carry into law, which allows any untrained person to carry a loaded gun in public with no background check. Under his governorship, gun deaths have surged by more than 60%. In 2022, 4,630 Texans died due to gun violence according to the CDC.

It’s not for a lack of demand that the GOP supermajority in the Texas legislature won’t pass gun safety laws. A vast majority of Texans—and Texas gun owners—want commonsense gun safety laws. Almost 80% of Texans support mandatory background checks on all gun sales, including 70% of Republicans. Over 70% of Texas voters support requiring gun purchasers to be 21 years old, and 72% support red flag laws that help concerned family members temporarily keep guns away from those who may harm themselves or others.

I know Texans want to protect our children in schools. The outrage after the tragic school shooting in Uvalde shook the conscience of Congress to take action.

I’ve also met some who think this is a futile fight, that a safer future is too far out of reach. To them, I say: Do not back down now.

I’m a senior ambassador for Giffords Gun Owners for Safety, a coalition of the national gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. After she survived an assassination attempt where she was shot in the head, she started to organize survivors —Republicans, Democrats, Independents, gun owners, advocates—because she knows we all want our children and communities to be safe. She didn’t back down. We can’t either.

As the NRA hosts its convention in Dallas, we’re launching Giffords Texas to go toe-to-toe with the gun lobby. When the merchants of despair and death come to Texas, we must show that they will find no home here.

Kling is a decorated combat veteran and fifth-generation Texan. As senior ambassador for GIFFORDS Gun Owners for Safety, he advocates against the for-profit gun lobby and for popular, commonsense gun safety laws.

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