The Brief: Top Texas News for March 5, 2013

The Big Conversation

Texans remain mostly opposed to new gun control measures, but the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll reveals some wrinkles in public opinion.

According to the poll, 44 percent of Texans think gun laws should be strengthened, while 36 percent want them left as they are and 16 percent would make them less strict. The divide falls along predictable party lines, with Democrats mostly in favor of strengthening the laws and Republicans mostly opposed.

"I would say this is a 52-44 split against gun control," said Daron Shaw, a government professor at UT-Austin and co-director of the poll. "But that’s 44 percent in Texas saying they would favor stricter gun control. A bunch of people aren’t happy with the restrictions or think we’re fine. All told, it strikes me that a lot of people want more gun control laws in Texas."

Nearly 80 percent of Texans said they support expanded background checks for gun purchases, which Congress has recently taken up.

But more dramatic action, like banning assault weapons, faces opposition in Texas. Forty-nine percent of Texans oppose an assault-weapons ban, compared with 40 percent in favor. A ban on high-capacity magazines splits the state, with 46 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.

"The overall attitudes on guns are about what you would expect in Texas with a couple of exceptions," said Jim Henson, the co-director of the poll and the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "That is, relatively suspicious of active restrictions and with a bias towards the status quo — in a state where the status quo is a lot less restrictive than in a lot of other places."

Texans' views on guns stand in contrast with those of most Americans. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed that 61 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws — a 5-point increase since January.

Read the full results of the UT/TT Poll for Texans' views on the NRA, arming teachers and allowing guns on college campuses.

Culled

•    Perry Slams Release of Immigrants From Detention Centers (The Texas Tribune): "Reports that the federal government released thousands of previously detained undocumented immigrants last week from detention centers because of budget cuts have prompted a harsh rebuke from Gov. Rick Perry. On Monday, the governor asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton in a letter to provide details to state and local authorities about the released immigrants, who the federal government said were deemed low-level offenders."

•    Embattled cancer group to break moratorium (Houston Chronicle): "The head of Texas' embattled cancer agency notified the state's political leadership Monday that he plans to break the moratorium they imposed in December. Wayne Roberts wrote Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Straus that 'subject to any additional direction to proceed otherwise,' he intends to complete 25 of 160 grants the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas suspended in December. The 25 grants are to recruit top out-of-state researchers to Texas."

•    Tarrant Democrat files bill to boost state education spending (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth introduced legislation on Monday that would boost per-student funding in Texas public schools, calling it a key first step toward addressing court-ordered reforms in the state's school finance system. SB1047, one of two education bills that Davis filed Monday, would boost state school funding by $5.5 billion over the next two years by raising the per pupil amount from $4,765 to $5,500. The bill would mark the first increase in per student funding since 2009."

•    Religious leaders urge funding for family planning, birth control (Austin American-Statesman): "Dozens of clergy members took to the Capitol on Monday to ask the Legislature to restore family planning funding and to counter assertions that all religious leaders support those cuts."

Quote of the Day: "If we want to create an immigration policy that’s going to work, we can’t continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. There’s a natural friction between our immigrant heritage and the rule of law." — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during an interview on the Today show on Monday

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