The NRA got a great return on its investment in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who called for churchgoers to be armed in the wake of the Sutherland Springs massacre — but scoffed at gun safety laws.
Current Texas Attorney General and then-state Sen. Ken Paxton faced a crisis while running for office. He had just lost an endorsement in the primary from a Republican congressman after Paxton was reprimanded for breaking state securities law.
His opponent had the support of another congressman and an anti-abortion group. But when he really needed help, the NRA came through for Paxton.
Now, in the wake of the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Paxton has come through for the NRA — pushing the gun extremist line before the bodies of the victims are even buried.
At that critical juncture of his 2014 race, the NRA and its state affiliate, the State Rifle Association, came out strong for Paxton. They gave him an "A" rating and released a letter hailing his "strong record of support on issues of importance to gun owners." The group sent a letter to its 45,000 members in the state urging them to vote for Paxton, indicating he had a "100 percent voting record on Second Amendment issues."
Paxton went on to win the primary and coasted to victory in the general election, winning by 28.8 percent.
Appearing on MSNBC after the church shooting, Paxton showed the NRA he was well worth the payoff, parroting the group's talking point nearly word for word.
He told anchor Ali Velshi that a "solution" to mass shootings in churches would be "arming your congregation." When Velshi pressed him, pointing out that Texas has lax gun laws and that perhaps certain restrictions should be put in place to save lives, Paxton immediately pushed back.
"Adding new gun laws wouldn't have changed this situation," he said, then doubled down and said the shooter "violated the laws against murdering people so adding a new gun law for him that may affect law-abiding citizens is my biggest concern" because he wants gun carriers to be able to stop such attacks.
PAXTON: I think if you're in smaller churches, smaller communities, you're going to have to come up with another solution which is potentially arming your congregation, and making sure that they're trained and ready to respond because as you saw from this incident, there's not always time for first responders to get there, especially in rural communities.
VELSHI: Sure. Let me ask you this: So, this is a state where the carry of guns is widely accepted, is there any point where people who believe in the unrestricted carry of firearms have to say, look maybe this guy, given his history, and the governor saying he shouldn't have been given a Texas carry permit, do we have to look at tightening up laws and restrictions, or at least enforcing them better?
PAXTON: Well yeah, I mean if this guy – this guy sounds to me like shouldn't have had this weapon anyway. There are already laws in place. I guess my argument is, adding new gun laws wouldn't have changed this situation. This guy was willing to violate the gun laws that were already in place. He also violated the laws against murdering people, so, adding a new gun law for him, it may potentially affect law-abiding citizens is my biggest concern because I want law-abiding citizens to be in a position where they can stop something like this, not be in a position where they have no recourse.
That Paxton's "biggest concern" is protecting unfettered access to guns — instead of implementing policies that might actually prevent another mass shooting — shows that his loyalty is to the NRA rather than to the citizens he represents.
Paxton is also echoing the absurd argument the NRA loves to promote: that criminals don't follow the law anyway, so there is no need for new gun safety laws. To follow this logic, criminals do not follow the laws against murder or assault, so why have them in the first place?
It doesn't make any sense, but the mindset has allowed the NRA and the elected officials they have bought off to prevent the passage of public safety legislation at both the state and federal levels.
The way in which the NRA came through for Ken Paxton, and how he is now parroting their rhetoric, even after dozens of his fellow Texans were murdered, is a microcosm of how the entire diseased cycle works.
Paxton won't work to make Texas safer because he is working on behalf of the NRA.