Cornyn signals looming Senate gun debate but voting records of local congressmen reveal gridlock on even modest reforms

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) called 2021 bills on background checks ‘gun grabs from the far Left’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week’s massacre at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School is the latest stark reminder of just how little action the United States Congress has taken in recent years on gun reform.

The U.S. Senate did not take up a single piece of major gun violence prevention legislation last year or so far this year, according to an analysis by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Texas Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both advocates of Second Amendment protections remaining in place, have long opposed even basic gun safety reforms, the analysis found.

A Cornyn spokeswoman pushed back on that analysis Monday, stating that the senator led the bipartisan effort to pass the 2017 Fix NICS Act, signed into law in 2018 after the Sutherland Springs shooting.

She added that Cornyn’s gun legislation efforts continued with the NICS Denial Notification Act, signed into law earlier this year as part of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill.

It requires federal authorities to alert state and local law enforcement within 24 hours when a prohibited individual who tries to purchase a firearm fails a background check, which can be a warning sign of future criminal behavior.

Speaking at the National Rifle Association’s annual conference in Houston Friday, just days after the Uvalde massacre, Cruz double-downed on his stance on gun rights in America.

“It’s a lot easier to moralize and to shriek about those you disagree with politically. But it’s never been about guns,” said Cruz, who instead blamed the fatal shooting of 19 children and two teachers on problems like deteriorating family dynamics.

Cruz’s claim that having a single entry and exit out of schools is a needed safety enhancement has been slammed by critics in recent days.

Cornyn, whose office previously said he canceled his appearance at the NRA convention prior to the Uvalde shooting, appeared in San Antonio Monday to host a ceremony for students entering the service academies.

“This is a sign to us that we need to do a lot more than we have done in the past,” said Cornyn, during a brief question and answer session with reporters prior to the ceremony.

He said a framework could be in place as soon as Tuesday for the Senate to pick up the gun debate.

“I hope we will try to look in a clear-eyed way at what happened and ask this question: ‘what can we do to fix this problem?’” said Cornyn.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) answers questions from the media about gun reform at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall on May 30, 2022. (KSAT)

The longtime senator said Monday there were several points of failure that led up to the Uvalde massacre, including shooter Salvador Ramos’ juvenile records not being available to those who ran a background check on him prior to his purchase of two AR-style rifles.

Cornyn was firm in his assertion that guns must remain out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

He also said the shooter may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and lengths of isolation at his home during which he played violent video games.

Senate Republicans last week blocked a domestic terrorism bill, which would have opened the floor for debate about the latest string of mass shootings.

In March 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, that would expand background checks on firearm purchases.

U.S. Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) voted yes on both measures.

Their fellow San Antonio-area congressmen, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) and Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), voted no on both.

Even though both bills passed through the House, nearly 15 months later, they have yet to reach the Senate floor.

The same day Gonzales voted against the bills he tweeted that they were “gun grabs from the far Left.”

Last June, Gonzales quote tweeted an article from the Daily Caller on Second Amendment rights and wrote, “The far Left will never stop trying to take Americans’ guns.”

Gonzales, who represents the Uvalde community and did not respond to a request for comment for this story, has blamed the massacre on a lack of mental health services in the rural area west of San Antonio.

Days after the shooting, when pressed by an NBC reporter on why an 18-year-old needs an assault rifle, he refused to answer the question three times:

Roy’s congressional office also did not respond to a request for comment.

He released a statement last week calling the shooting an “indescribable act of evil.”

Read more about Uvalde:

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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