Gun advocates split on messenger for gun safety and suicide prevention campaign


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gun rights advocates are split over whether the state of Texas should begin a public awareness campaign on safe gun storage and suicide prevention.

House Bill 316 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, calls on the state departments of public safety, parks and wildlife, and state health services to do more to prevent gun accidents with children. Much of the debate is over who delivers the message.

For those who think the gun debate is cut and dry, Michael Cargill and Lees Ross might seem like strange allies. Michael Cargill is an Austin gun rights advocate and gun shop owner. Leesa Ross advocates for new gun laws with Texas Gun Sense and lost her son after he drank at a concert and his friend handed him a gun.

“Had the gun been stored properly, my son might be alive today. So I’m very passionate,” said Ross.

They want the state of Texas to begin a public campaign similar to “Click it or Ticket”, “Don’t Mess with Texas”, and “Turn Around Don’t Drown.” Cargill says people like him should support gun safety measures.

“I’m one of the people on the pro-2nd amendment side saying you know what, we need to do something about suicide,” said Cargill. “We also need to address firearm safety. We see these different incidents; these negligent discharges that actually happen and we need to say something about it.” 

But state and national spokeswomen for the NRA oppose the bill. They did not grant an interview but in a committee earlier this year, they said the NRA and gun companies already have a safety program. So they argue the state should contract with them instead of creating its own.

“The private sector has taken care of this,” said Alice Tripp from the Texas State Rifle Association in a March public hearing on the bill. 

“We already have materials that have been developed in a manner where the message is delivered to firearm owners is not biased, not rhetoric,” said Tara Myca, from the National Rifle Association, in the same committee hearing.

Cargill and Ross disagree.

“At some point, we need to get serious about thinking about safety and taking care of each other and not just caring about lining our pockets,” said Cargill.

The bill already passed the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, waiting to be placed on the House calendar. If that doesn’t happen by next week – it will likely not pass the legislature.

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