AUSTIN (KXAN) — Groups on different sides of the gun debate are making a plea to Governor Greg Abbott, who now holds the fate of $1 million in state funding for a gun safe storage program in his hands.
Governor Abbott has until June 16 to sign or veto bills or line-item veto measures in the state budget.
Gun rights advocates are urging Abbott to veto the line. Texas Gun Sense and a bipartisan group of lawmakers — who wrote the budget — hope he doesn’t.
“The Governor’s silence on this issue has been deafening. But it’s not surprising since he spearheaded the original discussions for storage requirements and ‘red flag’ gun confiscation orders last summer. Hopefully Governor Abbott will reverse course and do right by Texans by using his line-item veto,” said Chris McNutt from Texas Gun Rights, a group urging supporters to call Abbott’s office to ask for the veto.
KXAN has reached out to Governor Abbott’s office on his position on this line-item and has not heard back.
According to the budget’s accompanying documents, the Department of Public Safety will be funded $1 million over the next two years to “establish and promote a statewide safe gun storage campaign.” The campaign must begin by September 1, 2020, and may include online and printed materials, public service announcements, and advertisements through the media.
“The public awareness campaign may not convey a message that it is unlawful under state law to keep or store a firearm that is loaded or that is readily accessible for self-defense,” state budget-writing staff wrote.
The Republican-led legislature overwhelmingly approved the two-year state budget in late May on the second to last day of their 140-day legislative session.
“Spending tax dollars on something that really doesn’t need to have tax dollars spent on it. There’s a lot of unintended consequences that could come down the road because of that,” said Derek Wills from Lone Star Gun Rights, who worries this awareness campaign could become requirements for gun owners in the future if more violent incidents happen.
Ed Scruggs from Texas Gun Sense, disagrees, saying the Department of Public Safety running the program will get rid of those concerns.
“The state’s largest law enforcement organization should be trusted with teaching safety and I think the overwhelming majority of Texans will trust them to do that fairly,” said Scruggs.
After the school shooting in Santa Fe, Governor Abbott rolled out a lengthy list of policy proposals on how to address school shootings and mental health issues. One of those items was directing the state to encourage the safe storage of guns, while not mandating it or adding a new law requiring it.
“Santa Fe certainly highlighted the danger of not storing them properly. But also too, a lot of people have had their gun stolen,” said Scruggs.