Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the push to restrict gun rights by President Joe Biden, who on the Feb. 14 anniversary of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school called on Congress to impose tougher laws on ownership of firearms.
“The Parkland shooting 3 years ago was an act of unspeakable evil,” Paxton wrote in a tweet late Feb. 14. “But Democrats cannot be allowed to use this tragedy as an opportunity to cram down unhelpful and unconstitutional gun laws.”
“Biden won’t undo the #2A in TX on my watch,” the Republican attorney general said, referring to the Second Amendment.
Feb. 14 marked three years since former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the Parkland, Florida, campus, killing 17 people and leaving another 17 wounded.
Biden took the opportunity to call on lawmakers to enact what he called “commonsense gun law reforms.” This includes background checks on all gun sales, eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers, and banning “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines.
“We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now,” Biden said in a statement.
Parkland parents have been divided over how lawmakers should respond.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was 14 when she was killed in the shooting, addressed the president in a tweet on Feb. 14.
“Mr. President, thank you for remembering the loved ones taken from us 3 years ago,” he wrote. “Alaina loved this country and the freedoms it guarantees. Common sense tells us that honoring her life does not require infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
In an interview on Feb. 14, Petty said the president’s proposals won’t prevent more tragedies.
“It’s wrong to focus on the weapon,” said Petty, who is now a member of the state school board. “For those who understand what happened that day, there were mistakes. This was the most preventable school shooting in the history of our country. The warning signs were there. It was clear the killer had intentions to attack the school.”
Mass shootings have galvanized gun control advocates, who argue that guns are too easily accessible and say more needs to be done to keep assault-style firearms away from potentially bad actors.
“The passage of time has done little to heal the heartbreak we felt upon hearing the shocking news three years ago today, nor dulled our sense of outrage at the lack of consequential legislative action from lawmakers since that horrible morning—laws that would prevent another Parkland from ever happening again,” said Manny Diaz, chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Last week, administration officials met with gun control advocates, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters later that the administration is ready to move on the “ambitious plan” Biden laid out during the campaign.
The main part of Biden’s gun control agenda includes banning the manufacture and sale of “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, regulating possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act, buying back these weapons and high-capacity magazines from citizens, requiring background checks for all gun sales, ending the online sale of firearms and ammunition, and providing more funds to enforce these laws.
John R. Lott Jr., former president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, argued in an op-ed that the reasoning behind Biden’s gun control agenda is flawed.
“Far less than 1 percent of guns are ever used in crimes, suicides, or accidents, and when they are, it’s virtually always the result of the user’s actions,” he wrote, arguing that plenty of other products are used to commit crimes, including cars and computers, or are associated with accidental deaths, such as swimming pools.
“Many other products, such as motorcycles, have much higher probabilities of causing harm. The death rate per motorcycle is 0.05 percent; the death rate for guns is 0.008 percent,” a figure that, in addition to homicides, includes accidental deaths and suicides.
“Guns are also used defensively about 2 million times in the average year, according to the FBI. Will government reward gun makers when their products are used to save lives?” Lott said.
Masooma Haq and The Associated Press contributed to this report.