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Democrats Push for Gun Control in Gun-Friendly Texas

Looking to capitalize on the news Democrats made in Washington last week with a daylong sit-in on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett returned to his gun-friendly state on Wednesday trying to drum up enthusiasm for gun control.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, at a gun control rally June 29, 2016 near the Texas Capitol.

Looking to capitalize on the news he and other Democrats made in Washington last week with their daylong sit-in on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett returned to his gun-friendly state on Wednesday trying to drum up enthusiasm for gun control.

At a rally in Austin with Mayor Steve Adler and local gun control advocates, Doggett praised the sit-in, which was House Democrats’ attempt to force a vote on gun legislation in the wake of the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people.

“Sometimes, in order to stand up, you have to sit down,” Doggett said to applause.

The disruption failed to convince Republican U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan to take up any gun measures — he dismissed it as a “publicity stunt” — but it attracted a significant following on social media. Eager to sustain the attention, dozens of Democrats took to their home states Wednesday to continue the campaign alongside local advocacy groups, and they went to great lengths to publicize it, dubbing it a “national day of action” against gun violence.

The Democrats’ calls for increased gun control at the national level contrast with Texas policies that generally give significant leeway to gun owners. A state law allowing people with licenses to carry concealed handguns on college campuses is set to take effect in August.

Still, roughly 70 like-minded people joined Doggett at the Austin rally outside the Texas AFL-CIO building on Lavaca Street, holding up signs calling for lawmakers to “disarm hate.” One woman wore a shirt with the words “Gun Free UT,” the name of an anti-campus carry group at the University Texas at Austin.

Repeating the party line, Doggett criticized the National Rifle Association and assailed House Republicans for their reluctance to consider a measure preventing people on two government watch lists from purchasing firearms — popularly known as the “No Fly, No Buy” bill.

That legislation was proposed by a bipartisan group from the House the day after the Democrats’ sit-in, and Doggett called it a “reasonable proposal that would be a significant step forward” in preventing gun violence.

“Let’s back a Republican bill,” Doggett said. “Let’s back that bill.”

After the rally, Doggett said Democrats are now focusing on increasing turnout at local gun control rallies to “engage people, because we can’t get the votes within the Capitol unless we get more people engaged with passion outside the Capitol.”

“I hope that we will find a way to force a vote” on the bipartisan bill, he said.

Doggett attended a similar event in San Antonio earlier in the day. In Houston, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who participated in the sit-in, held what she called a gun violence prevention summit.

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