A Democrat-turned-Republican Texas legislator is obstructing incredibly modest gun reform in the wake of yet another mass shooting in his state.
Families of victims of the Uvalde mass school shooting have been rallying for months behind an array of gun safety bills, including one to raise the minimum age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill was filed back in February but was not given a hearing until April 19. Even then, families had to wait more than 12 hours just to testify on the bill.
Monday—in the wake of a horrific mass shooting that left nine people, including the shooter, dead—is the final day the bill could have advanced.
And on Monday, Ryan Guillen—the chair of the Community Safety House committee where the bill is stalled—put a nail in the coffin: He does not want to bring up the bill for a vote.
It “doesn’t have the support in the legislature,” the Republican said, simply, ignoring the protesters demanding gun control inside the Capitol.
Who is to say how many more coffins will be nailed by the cowardice of Guillen and the rest of his Republican colleagues?
“To honor our children, you’d put this up for a vote.… It’s time for you to grow some balls and do your fucking job,” one family member said last week, addressing Guillen.
In face of the growing protests, Guillen then announced that the committee is taking another look at voting on the bill. “We’re considering it,” he said.
Guillen was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 2002 and, after nearly two decades, switched to the Republican Party in November 2021. The lawmaker is also a friend to national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Texas Representative Henry Cuellar.
Guillen shares much of his state district with Cuellar, an anti-choice, A-rated NRA conservative blessed by Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn. The conservative Texas duo share both a tendency for political fence-riding and an apparent kindred camaraderie, perhaps in relating to each other’s spinelessness. Just last week, Cuellar boasted about spending time with a couple of his “friends” while visiting the Texas state legislature, including one Ryan Guillen.
“Coming back always brings so many memories of bipartisanship,” Cuellar wrote.
The mirroring between Cuellar and Guillen is almost beautiful in its patheticness. Last year, in the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Cuellar voted against raising the minimum age to access semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21—just as Guillen blocked similar legislation Monday. The bill Cuellar voted against would have also created penalties for gun trafficking, required manufacturers to include serial numbers, and mandated safe storage of weapons away from children, among other very moderate provisions.
The “bipartisan” order that Cuellar so warmly recalls is indeed an influential one. It is one in which Texas Republicans and conservative Democrats put on a showcase of the most cynical, despicable, shamelessly wretched ways of leading one’s life.
This post has been updated.