Monday, August 6, 2012

We Beat the NRA in Texas

They said it couldn't be done. Session after legislative session the NRA-backed bill to create a legal right to carry fully loaded weapons into college classrooms had been stealthily blocked by a handful of sensible Democratic legislators. Now all of those legislators had gone down to defeat in the Tea Party bloodbath of 2010, and the bill was coming up again. It was a foregone conclusion that it would pass.

I really don't know why we did it. There was no chance the bill would be defeated. We might as well just accept that it was inevitable and go on and do our best to adapt. Some of our students were probably bringing guns to campus already. They could be hauled into court if they were caught, but they were never caught. That's what concealed means.

Still, we couldn't let it go. Somewhere in the great ledger book in the sky, it would be recorded that we had tried. It might not be remembered as our finest hour. It probably wouldn't be remembered at all, but we would at least know that we had made the effort.

So we began the writing of letters. We began to contact our colleagues and ask them to join us. The letters flowed, and soon they turned into petitions, and the signatures mounted. We would at least be heard. It would be known that there were people in Texas classrooms who really didn't want guns there among the already volatile mix. It would be remembered that we had gone on record with our belief that the answer to the possibility of violence was not the threat of more violence.

Nobody thought we could win. This bill was a bad idea whose time had come. Nevertheless, we persisted. We watched the legislature's moves carefully. We drove to Austin on multiple occasions to wait in cramped committee rooms and speak our minds to stubborn politicians who were legally obligated to hear us. We told them why what they proposed to do was wrong; why we wouldn't stand by and let common sense - which we made our living teaching and defending - be trampled to death. Increasingly, we were joined by students and administrators. Some had had experience with violence before, and wanted no more of it. Some simply wished to lend their support. Our numbers grew.

We made phone calls, and we made them again. We argued with staffers, and we left messages of gratitude with the occasional legislator who changed his or her mind. We received new lists of new people to call, and somehow we made the time to press the phone once more to our ears and speak our convictions into the broad void of indifference.

We wrote Op-Eds. Mine in the local paper provoked a storm of protest, which I ignored. I briefly wondered whether my home was safe, but I knew where such fears could lead and I dismissed them as distractions - temptations from a source that had spawned countless paranoid acts and raised the death toll ever higher. I could not let myself worry. Now more than ever I needed the strength of my convictions.

So we persevered, and again and again it looked like time had run out and the terrible idea was about to triumph. The NRA was behind it - they were there in the hearing room trotting out the usual arguments - and politicians bowed to their will. This was Texas, and there was no way we could fight the NRA here. Ours would go down in history as a lost cause, and we would lick our wounds in defeat and wonder how we could have been so foolish as to hope.

Ultimately, it was the politicians who squashed the bill. As usual, they didn't take the lead; they waited to follow. Only after they saw that our numbers were growing and that we were in dead earnest about our convictions did they start to show signs of wavering. State Senator Jeff Wentworth, who seemed to regard passage of this bill as his life's work, tried every trick in the book to keep it alive, and time and again we thought he had won. But he lost, and, in a crowning irony, he was defeated in his re-election bid this year by a Tea Party challenger.

Of course, the bill may come up again next year. Someone else may step up to the plate to take Wentworth's turn at bat. Rick Perry, no longer running for president and watching the national polls, may decide to give this bill more attention. But we will be there too, because we did the impossible, and we know it can be done again. Whether in Texas or in any other state, the NRA can be defeated, if only the people who care will make their voices heard. The politicians will not do it for us. They will only follow once they hear us loud and clear and realize that we are not going away.

We beat the NRA in Texas. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere. We are not going away.


  1. As a graduate student who teaches in Texas: Thank you. I just glared at the Students for Concealed Carry in quad. This was more effective, I suppose

  2. A very hearty congratulations to you and everyone else who stood up and empowered themselves in this effort. Any grass roots effort by people united in a common cause is to be commended. We offer our website (free - this is not an advertisement) as something that may help "bolster" your efforts. Together, we can make a difference. TEACH PEACE!

    1. Sorry, forgot to include the link in my post. Here it is: