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In the aftermath of the Uvalde mass school shooting, the Texas senator John Cornyn is facing backlash from his own Republican party for being a lead negotiator on the bipartisan gun reform bill, the most significant legislation on gun control in America in decades.
At the state’s annual Republican convention recently held in Houston, Cornyn was booed and heckled – a visible sign he is losing support from those within his own party. He dismissed the taunting crowd as a “mob”.
But after the incident, Cornyn was dubbed a “two-faced politician” by gun rights groups like the National Association for Gun Rights and Texas Gun Rights.
The tragedy in his home state left 19 children and two schoolteachers dead and has put the senior senator in a difficult political position. He is caught between some constituents demanding immediate gun law reform and members of his own party who are fervent defenders of a maximalist interpretation of the second amendment at any cost – including many national Republican figures.
But taking a stance against his party’s line on gun rights – even if the proposed reforms are mild – could cost Cornyn politically in his home state. Cornyn’s experience reveals the deeply entrenched power of the gun lobby and gun rights supporters in the Republican party, even in the wake of horrific mass shootings.
The bill, if passed, would close the boyfriend loophole that currently allows unmarried partners with a history of domestic violence to obtain firearms and force more gun retailers to register as federally licensed firearm dealers so they have to complete background checks.
But regulations like raising the age limit to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21 did not make it into the proposals, nor did any sort of regulations for existing gun owners and the final version of the bill is seen as watered down by many Democrats.
But despite this, Cornyn is firmly in the line of fire for much of his party by backing the bill and other Republican politicians – whose districts have also seen mass shootings – have already paid a steep price for similar stances on gun reform.
The Republican congressman Chris Jacobs of New York crossed his party in the gun rights debate after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this year. After voicing support for a federal ban on assault weapons, he was condemned by many Republican figures, including Donald Trump Jr. His longstanding record for supporting second amendment rights did little to help his case and Jacobs eventually withdrew his bid for re-election.
Cornyn currently has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby group that rates and funds lawmakers based on their support for gun rights, but his latest actions could negatively affect the organization’s sentiments towards the politician. Cornyn’s current term ends in 2027, however, so the long-term effects of his actions remain to be seen.
In a statement, the NRA said the bill placed “unnecessary burdens” on those who wish to exercise their second amendment right.
By contrast, Cornyn’s counterpart and junior Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on his support for unfettered access to firearms.
In an interview with CNN after the shooting, Cruz said: “Inevitably, when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it. You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media, whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”