Herman: Can gun violence discussion be a Texas political game-changer?

If you spend any time in downtown Austin, you know you can run into folks on the street espousing stuff, sometimes crazy stuff.

I heard the darndest things on Monday from a guy on Congress Avenue. He looked like a reasonable guy, reasonably dressed in Texas business attire (sport coat and jeans).

But the words that came out of his mouth. … See what you think.

First, he thinks Texans are ready this year to elect a Democrat as their next governor. As if that’s not sufficiently outside the box, this guy also thinks the GOP-controlled, NRA-approved Legislature can be persuaded to pass what he sees as reasonable and needed restrictions on guns and ammo.

The things you can hear on Congress Avenue.

He’s Andrew White. His late dad, Mark White, was governor, back when Democrats could be governor of Texas, and this White thinks he can be the next governor of Texas. First, of course, he has to beat former Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Running for governor, Andrew White steps back into his father’s shadow

Early voting for the March 6 primary ends Friday. Go vote for somebody.

White espoused his gun control ideas as he was flanked by leaders of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They’re not endorsing anybody in the primary, but they are looking for general election candidates that would qualify for their seal of approval.

White and Valdez seem pretty much in alignment on gun issues, including calls for background checks on all gun purchases, including person to person sales; a limit on magazine capacity; and raising the age for rifle purchases from 18 to 21.

White on Monday urged GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to pass “common-sense gun-safety legislation.”

Don’t hold your breath on that.

In the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shootings, Abbott, proud of his A-plus NRA rating, has talked about mental health issues and improving the federal background check system for gun purchases. He’s mentioned nothing about further restrictions on guns or ammo.

Both Democratic candidates say you can simultaneously support the Second Amendment and back additional gun restrictions that could reduce the number of mass shootings. I certainly hope so.

So it fell to John Moritz, who covers the Capitol for the USA Today Network, to ask White the pertinent political question about his gun control proposals: “Is this a winner in November in the state of Texas?”

Moritz doesn’t waste words.

Central Texas congressional delegation reacts to Florida shooting

The current platform of the party most definitely in power in Texas says, “We strongly oppose all laws that infringe on the right to bear arms.” It also talks about a “God-given right to carry” firearms and says, “All federal acts, laws, executive orders, and court orders which restrict or infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms shall be invalid in Texas, not be recognized by Texas, shall be specifically rejected by Texas, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Texas.”

Confronted with the political reality question, White said, “You know what, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t about getting some special-interest group to vote for me or not vote for me. It’s about doing right and risking the consequences.”

The consequences in this case, one would think, might include little to no chance of a gun control advocate (even limited gun control) beating Abbott in November.

Those of us who favor competitive two-party Texas government have been looking for a political game-changer for about a generation now. How weird it would be if guns were that game-changer? Valdez and White are counting on that. We’ll see if they’re on to something. Again, let’s hope they are because, Second Amendment supporter though I am, I refuse to adopt the hopeless position that there’s nothing that can be done to, at least, curtail mass shootings.

Elva Mendoza was among those who stood with — but didn’t endorse — White in downtown Austin on Monday.

“I’m seeing a tremendous shift, and it gives me hope,” said Mendoza, state legislative lead volunteer for Moms Demand Action. “I know we still have a long way to go, just like any other movement.”

Mendoza finds hope in her group’s efforts in the 2017 legislative session to defeat what she calls “permitless carry” of weapons and what supporters called “constitutional carry.”

The reporters on hand for White’s Monday event couldn’t help but have a chuckle about a Democratic candidate having an event near a sign that read “The Elephant Room,” just down the block from big domed building that, politically, long has been The Elephant House, a building in which gun control has been a nonstarter.

“It’s hard,” Mendoza said of passing gun control measures in that building. “Texas is hard.”

An earlier version of this column misstated the name of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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