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Texas GOP convention boos Senator Cornyn for proposing gun control

Cornyn insisted his proposed firearm sales reform is modest, but this did little to quiet the zealously conservative crowd.

HOUSTON (CN) — Texas Republicans loudly booed the state’s senior senator, John Cornyn, during his speech Friday at their biennial convention after he expressed support for gun reform.

Spurred by a gunman’s murder of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, Cornyn took the role of lead Republican negotiator in the Senate for a bill to make modest changes to the nation’s gun laws.

Though he made clear early in the talks he would not endorse universal background checks for firearm purchases or any ban on assault rifles like the AR-15 the shooter used in the Uvalde massacre, Cornyn has maintained that doing nothing in response to the tragedy is unacceptable.

The reform package appeared Sunday to have the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, as Cornyn and nine of his Republican colleagues announced they had reached a tentative deal with Democrats.

The proposal would implement an investigative period to review buyers’ juvenile court, police and mental health records if they are under 21 years of age before they may buy firearms, a measure Cornyn believes would have prevented the Uvalde shootings.

It bill includes a federal grant program to incentivize states to pass red-flag laws, which permit guns to be temporarily removed, via court orders, from people who have threatened to hurt others or themselves.

But the deal has floundered this week over efforts to come to an agreement on the wording of a section intended to bar people who have abused a romantic partner from buying guns, just as existing federal law allows these bans for those convicted of abusing a spouse, a live-in partner or a partner with whom they have a child.

And at its convention this week in Houston, the Texas Republican Party made clear its members are not happy with the bill’s provisions.

A Texas GOP committee passed a resolution Thursday stating “’red flag laws’ violate one’s right to due process and are a pre-crime punishment of people not adjudicated guilty,” adding that “waiting periods on gun purchases harm those who need to acquire the means of self-defense” and “all gun control is a violation of the Second Amendment and our God-given rights.”

In the resolution, they rejected the “so called ‘bipartisan gun agreement’” and rebuked Cornyn and the nine other Republican Senators who are backing the reforms.

In a 15-minute speech at the convention Friday, Cornyn tried to distance himself from President Joe Biden and other Democrats who have called for more substantial gun reforms.

As conventiongoers loudly booed and jeered him, Cornyn said he had kept “Biden’s gun-grabbing wish list off the table” by snuffing out any talk of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and instituting universal background checks.

“I will not under any circumstances support new restrictions for law-abiding citizens,” he added. “The framework that we are working on is consistent with that red line.”

The Texas Republican Party holds its convention every other year to update its platform, set its legislative priorities and elect party officials.

Texas state and congressional GOP lawmakers who spoke at the convention before Cornyn on Friday railed against President Biden’s policies and championed the state as a bastion of conservative values, burnishing their bona fides for the zealots who constitute the state party’s far-right base.

The heckling of Cornyn reflects the misgivings of many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate — including Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz — who say they are concerned the legislation could infringe on people’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In the aftermath of the shooting, victims’ families have sued the gunman’s estate over the massacre, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott blamed on mental health care access.

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