Gun control activists urge Texas Democrats to fight for stricter laws

Gun Rights

The message was clear at the Texas Democratic Convention: “Apathy is deadly, hopelessness is deadly” when it comes to fighting against gun violence and demanding stricter gun control laws.

“It’s obviously very difficult to advocate for it, but our numbers are growing,” said David Hogg, a gun control activist and survivor of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., high school shooting. “Democrats are no longer running (away) from gun control. They’re running on it in most instances. We’re showing that it’s a winning issue. It’s going to take time, though.”

In the past decade, Texas has experienced some of the nation’s most horrific mass shootings. Those attacks have occurred in a Uvalde elementary school, an El Paso Walmart and even a Sutherland Springs church.

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Hogg was one of several speakers at a “Stop Gun Violence” panel Friday at the Texas Democratic Convention, which wrapped up Saturday, at the El Paso Convention Center.

Hogg received a standing ovation when he entered the conference room. After his speech, he was mobbed by attendees asking for photos and to continue discussing gun control laws with him.

Ongoing struggle for stricter gun control laws

Hogg talked about the success he and other gun control activists have had in helping get gun control laws passed in his home state of Florida, a mostly Republican-led state.

“Over the years since I’ve gone out to these state legislatures, I’ve met with Democrats and Republicans, and too often, even from some Democrats in other states, not in Texas of course, but in other states, I hear, ’Gun violence is a terrible thing. What happened in Parkland is terrible. But this type of thing doesn’t happen here.’

“I hear people say all the time that criminals just don’t obey laws. ‘So there’s no point in having gun laws,’ which is one of the most illogical things I’ve ever heard. Why have any laws at all? Why have a government at all? We know that these laws work. I know that they work because I’ve been personally impacted by them.”

He and gun control activists found success in Florida as the state passed gun control laws, including raising the age to buy a gun to 21 years old and a law that can help authorities disarm people who are at risk of hurting themselves and others, Hogg said.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland resulted in the deaths of 17 people and another 17 injured. Most of the victims were students. The shooting was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school in U.S. history.

Hogg became a nationally known leader in the battle for stricter gun laws. That notoriety led to him and his family receiving death threats from National Rifle Association members, he said.

More: What’s in store for the 2024 Texas Democratic Party Convention in El Paso this week?

“If we as young people in Parkland listened to the pollsters and the pundits and the consultants and everybody like that that said, ‘It’s great kids care, but this is Florida. Things don’t change here,'” Hogg said. “If we listened to that, and we participated in a self-fulfilling prophecy that is hopelessness and apathy that is destroying our country. If we bought into that, I may have had to bury my own mother. Don’t buy into that. Apathy is deadly, hopelessness is deadly. Not just for people, but for our country and our democracy.”

‘Don’t lose hope’

El Pasoan and gun control activist Sarah Ronda, who is attending Texas Tech University, also spoke at the gun violence panel about the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The shooting left 23 people dead and dozens more injured.

“El Paso will always be my home, and, growing up here, I always acknowledged that El Paso was a generally safe city,” Ronda said. “Before Aug. 3, 2019, I would’ve never expected to see it as the target of one of the deadliest attacks on Hispanics in modern U.S. history.

“It still doesn’t feel real to say that day shattered our sense of security here. Like many others, I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when I found out (about the El Paso shooting). I had gone out to eat breakfast with my cousin and that’s when the initial news reports started to roll in. Watching my hometown be thrusted into the national spotlight like that was very surreal.”

In the nearly five years since the El Paso Walmart shooting, it seems to have been forgotten on the national stage, Ronda said. The racist gunman admitted to targeting Hispanics. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the gunman posted on a website popular with white supremacists before the attack.

More: What’s in store for the 2024 Texas Democratic Party Convention in El Paso this week?

“Having lost 23 people five years ago seems to be swept under the rug a lot of the times,” Ronda said. “I think a lot of it is because these events, these mass shootings, just happen all too often. El Paso already being in this corner of Texas seems to just get left out of the conversation a lot — whether that be maybe racial bias or other reasons. We need more advocates for El Paso. We are really quiet people, and we don’t like the attention, but we just need more people to be outspoken and to represent El Paso the way that we want to be represented.”

Hogg and Ronda called for all Texans to take a stand and fight for stricter gun safety laws.

“My message to Texans when it comes to passing gun laws, being from Florida where we were able to, is don’t lose hope,” Hogg said.

“In this state, there are great young people that are running on this issue. There are great older people, people of all ages, that are running on this issue,” he said. “And it’s impossible until it isn’t. If you don’t try, if we didn’t try after Parkland, it never would’ve changed.”

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