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Gun control advocates warn national groups: Stay out of Texas

Andrea Drusch, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the deadliest shooting in the state's history, Texas gun control advocates said Monday they don't want national groups marching into the state demanding stricter gun control measures.

After a San Antonio shooting left 26 members of a church congregation dead Sunday, the Austin-based Texas Gun Sense, which promotes gun control, said it's looking for measures it can introduce with the support of Republicans in Austin, who control every level of power in the state.

In a nod to the sensitivity of the issue in the Lone Star State, the group wants Texans to lead their own response to Sunday's shooting -- rather than well-heeled national groups that have given the party a strong identity as eager gun control advocates. Those groups were quick to weigh in on the shooting Sunday, criticizing what they called lenient gun laws.

"It is time for every single American to get off the sidelines and demand our lawmakers reject the NRA, which has far too much influence over our gun laws," said Shannon Watts, founder of the national gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "It doesn't have to be this way -- gun violence is preventable."

But, said Ed Scruggs, an Austin resident and board member of the nonprofit Texas Gun Sense, "The gun issue is different in Texas, it has a meaning in the fabric of the social society here.

"Instead of relying on communication from outside of the state, we feel it's important for our lawmakers to hear from people in our community," Scruggs said.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control group, declined to comment on whether it would consider that request. The group included statements in its press release on the San Antonio shooting from volunteers in its Texas chapter, who called for increased gun control.

Scruggs said his group, led by a board of directors who all live in Texas, meets with Republicans in Austin to gauge interest in gun safety measures that could be introduced with bipartisan support.

"We've been approaching this with the mindset of, 'Let's talk about gun issues Texan to Texan,'" he said. "That's gotten us into the door of some legislative offices we might not have been able to get into."

The group is focused on legislative solutions for gun violence prevention and public safety, increased background checks, increased mental health care and suicide prevention.

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