Although the COVID-19 pandemic understandably dominates the news cycle, the ongoing political campaigns occasionally emerge. The Brady PAC – sister committee to gun violence prevention group Brady – has endorsed MJ Hegar over Royce West in the U.S. Senate run-off, scheduled for May 26.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Brady PAC’s executive director Brian Lemak said, “Brady PAC will be putting their full weight behind MJ’s candidacy and are in discussions on the best way to do that, including online fundraising.” (In February, the gun control group “Giffords,” founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, also endorsed Hegar.)
Lemek later added, “As a gun violence survivor, mother of two young boys, and a responsible gun owner, [Hegar] is committed to ending senseless gun violence by enacting gun safety measures. MJ is the candidate that Texans deserve.”
In the Dallas Morning News, Lemek criticized state Sen. West specifically for supporting a 2019 law that allowed school districts to determine whether certain school personnel (e.g., trained marshals) could carry concealed weapons during the school day – previously, the law required the weapons to be locked away during school hours.
Lemek told the DMN that West “voted multiple times to expand the places people can carry guns, including school grounds, and we think that is unacceptable,” although he didn’t cite specific legislation other than the school marshal law. Asked about the criticism, West told the Chronicle that the PAC “apparently hadn’t looked at my entire record. If that school bill is the litmus test, let them use that excuse.”
West acknowledged he was “disappointed” that he didn’t receive the PAC’s support, but pointed to his recent endorsements by other candidates defeated in the first round – Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, Chris Bell, and Michael Cooper. “If one point of disagreement determines the Brady PAC support,” West added, “that’s their decision.”
In fact, Hegar and West share several positions on gun violence issues – a ban on assault weapons, “red flag” laws against dangerous owners, universal background checks, and opposition to open carry laws. Tzintzún Ramirez told the Chronicle that among the reasons she is supporting West is his “consistency” on gun control legislation during his nearly 30 years in the state Senate.
“Neither Hegar nor Royce support mandatory gun buybacks [of assault weapons] as I do,” Tzintzún Ramirez said, “but he has been consistent over the years on banning assault rifles, when Hegar was not.” Military veteran Hegar changed her position on “assault-style” weapons relatively recently, after opposing such policies in her 2018 Congressional campaign and earlier in the current Senate campaign.
Since the two candidates do not differ dramatically on gun control measures, West was asked if he thought other reasons might be behind the Brady PAC endorsement. “I think it’s part and parcel of the DSCC [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] endorsement of Hegar. It’s Washington telling us who we should elect in Texas.”