On Thursday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was writing a letter to Texas’ two U.S. senators and Dallas-area representatives to the U.S. House, urging them to take action against the epidemic of mass shootings. Rawlings was careful to cast it as a nonpartisan issue, citing both “mental health,” a common Republican talking point in the wake of gun massacres, and “gun control,” Democrats’ preferred option, as potential causes of the violence.
Any action that Congress does take will, of course, be a political issue. Even if, as the mayor suggests, they assemble a nonpartisan commission to address gun violence. These are politicians. And as politicians, they are dependent on campaign donations.
The website Open Secrets has a handy spreadsheet tracking donations the National Rifle Association has made to support various Congress members over the course of their respective political careers. It counts both spending on the candidate and against that candidate’s opponents in a given campaign to come up with a grand total of NRA funding supporting each elected official. Senator John Cornyn, for example, has received more than $59,000 in NRA money. Ted Cruz, $77,000.
Here are the NRA contributions sent to Dallas’ national representatives, the leaders that Rawlings is asking to address gun violence. Unsurprisingly, they break down along partisan lines — Neither of North Texas’ Democratic U.S. House reps, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey, have accepted money from the NRA.
Rep. Pete Sessions, who offered “prayers” following this week’s shooting at a Florida high school, has received about $158,000 in NRA funding, more than any other Texan in Congress. Sessions’ website is a bit out of date (note the references to the Obama administration), but here’s how it describes his stance on the Second Amendment:
I am a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Texas Rifle Association, and an unwavering defender of our God-given right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states very plainly, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Although our gun rights are clearly spelled out in the Second Amendment, the role of firearms in our society continues to be a contentions point of debate in the media, our courtrooms, and the halls of government. I will fight against this Administration’s anti-gun agenda at every opportunity, both in the halls of Congress and in our regulatory agencies. Restricting the Constitutional rights of law abiding, gun owning citizens is not the solution to ending crime and gun violence. We should enforce the laws on the books and prosecuting those who choose to break them. And I will not sit back and allow this Administration to use the victims of gun violence as a ploy to advance their liberal agenda. I strongly support allowing concealed firearms to be carried across state lines, preventing the reclassification of armor piercing ammunition, and prohibiting the Federal Government from requiring specific demographic information to be disclosed in connection with the transfer of a firearm.
I am proud to have a career voting record score of A+ from the NRA, the highest possible rating for a Member of Congress. I took an oath of office to support and defend the United States Constitution, and I will continue to fight against all attempts – legislative or otherwise – to erode it. Please know that I will remain vigilant in protecting our Second Amendment rights.
Rep. Kenny Marchant, who offered thoughts to the victims of the Florida shooting, has accepted more than $14,000 from the NRA.
Rep. Michael Burgess, “deeply saddened” by this week’s shooting, has accepted more than $19,000 from the NRA.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, praying for the victims of the shooting, more than $28,000.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who has not taken any money from the NRA, offered up her “thoughts and prayers. In a press release, she said that “gun control policies alone will not stop mass violence,” and advocated for “mental health reform.”
With the annual NRA convention coming to Dallas’ taxpayer-funded convention center in May, the city is set to remain at the center of the country’s long-running debate about gun control.
Rawlings himself is likely to take considerable flack from some corners for allowing the convention to take place at all. In 2016, Rawlings and a majority of the City Council voted to ban the Exxxotica sex expo from returning to the convention center, provoking a lawsuit that the city (to the surprise of many observers) won.
Rawlings has said that the NRA convention is, personally, “not at the top of my list,” but that he was “separating how I feel with what makes good business sense.” When asked how the mayor felt about the NRA convention today and how it reflects on Dallas’ public image, as well as what distinguished it from the porn convention he made a show of opposing on moral grounds, the mayor’s office sent this over:
The Exxotica Convention differs from the NRA Convention in the following respects:
- Exxxotica fraudulently misrepresented the existence of the entity that would be leasing the facility.
- Exxxotica fraudulently represented the manner in which the convention would be operated.
- Exxxotica permitted operations that violated their own policy of how the convention would be operated.
- Exxxotica committed Penal Code violations (sexual contact and public lewdness).
- Exxxotica illegally operated a sexually oriented business.
If the NRA Convention violates laws, the mayor will be the first one to advocate for shutting them down in our city.
The other City Council members who voted to ban Exxxotica and still remain on the council are Adam McGough, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Rickey Callahan, and Casey Thomas. (The others, Erik Wilson, Tiffini Young, and Carolyn King Arnold, have since been voted out.) We reached out to them to get their thoughts on the NRA convention this morning, and hadn’t heard back as of early this afternoon. (Update: Gates also reponded, her comments are below.)
Whatever action Dallas leaders may take on preventing gun violence, it doesn’t seem likely to be anything that displeases the NRA.
Update: Here’s Councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates’ response:
What do you think of Dallas hosting the NRA convention in May? I personally have some differing opinions from the NRA but I am supportive of them coming to Dallas. The convention will have over 20,000 attendees and includes $50,000 room nights. These visitors will provide almost $24 million in direct business sales and a total economic impact of over $42 million. This supports over 6,800 jobs in Dallas and provides over $3.3 million in local taxes.
How does this case differ from the case of Exxxotica, which you voted to ban? [The city] has a signed legal contract booked in 2012 with the NRA. Exxootica was operating an illegal SOB and a contract was not in place when the council passed the resolution. There are several other examples of illegal operations by Exxootica. And reasons why our actions stood up in court.
How do you think hosting an NRA convention reflects on Dallas’ image and brand? I believe it sends the message we are open for business and supportive of free speech. We recognize differing opinions and I am hopeful during this convention Dallas can be part of a conversation supporting responsible gun ownership and gun laws.