During a Senate floor debate Tuesday supposedly about “protecting children,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rebuked Sen. Roland Gutierrez for repeatedly mentioning gun violence. Sen. Gutierrez thought gun violence might be relevant to “protecting children,” especially since his Uvalde district is still recovering from the trauma of the school massacre that took the lives of 19 children and two adults.
The reason for the public rebuke? This debate about “protecting children” wasn’t about guns or violent crime. It was about the dangers of – drag shows. Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, has proposed legislation that would bar minors from attending drag shows.
When Hughes argued that his law, Senate Bill 12, would help “protect children,” Gutierrez countered: “Man, I’ll tell you, I’ve been all about this session about protecting children, my friend, and we haven’t done a whole lot of protecting children when it comes to guns and ammunition,” said Gutierrez.
The Senate gallery, which is open to the public, could be heard cheering, according to KVUE
Sen. Hughes looked “rattled” during the exchange, according to the Quorum Report.
But Lt. Gov. Patrick was quick to offer protection from the volley of words and came to Hughes’ rescue. Patrick scolded Gutierrez and announced that he would not be recognized to speak on the floor going forward if he could not limit his queries to the topic of protecting children (from drag shows).
“I appreciate your interest in protecting kids,” Sen. Gutierrez responded. “I sure would, could, use your support in protecting kids that are killed by gun violence in this state.”
As the Senate gallery cheered again, Lt. Gov. Patrick banged his gavel and warned that he would order the gallery cleared if there were another outburst.
“Sen. Gutierrez, I’m going to give you one more warning. That’s the last time,” Lt. Gov. Patrick said. “Stick to the topic, to the issues you’re asking questions on, or you will not be recognized in the future.”
As tensions rose, Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, proposed a recess, which Patrick granted. Soon after, the Senate gave initial passage to Hughes’ drag show legislation and another that would end drag queen storytime in public libraries.
But it was not the first time tension arose among the three senators regarding guns.
Sen. Gutierrez has filed a series of gun safety bills this session, but has been blocked at every turn. Last month, in frustration, he introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 58, a bill authored by Democrat Judith Zaffirini aimed at preventing people from using technology to buy bulk goods online in order to sell them at inflated prices.
Gutierrez’s amendment also dealt with online purchases and proposed a ban on Internet sales of assault weapons to any individual under the age of 21.
Gutierrez told the Senate, “This amendment is not a gotcha on politics. It’s about trying to do the right thing in a space that we need to do the right thing.”
He emphasized that the amendment would only apply to online sales and have no effect on firearm purchases at gun stores or gun shows.
“We have to be able to say something to the NRA (National Rifle Association) and others out there that we have to regulate the weapons that are killing our youth, by the youth,” Gutierrez said.
“There’s one rule to being a legislator, and that’s vote your district and represent your district overzealously.”
When Gutierrez finished speaking, Sen. Hughes countered with a point of order arguing that Gutierrez’s amendment was not germane to Zaffirini’s bill.
Patrick sustained Hughes’s point of order.
Gutierrez appealed Patrick’s ruling – a rare act of defiance in the Texas Senate – which triggered a vote of the full Senate to decide the parliamentary issue.
This hadn’t happened on the Senate floor since June 2013, according to the San Antonio Express News, when then-Sen. Kirk Watson appealed then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s decision to shut down Wendy Davis’s infamous filibuster against restrictive abortion legislation.
But, in spite of their general agreement on the topic of gun violence, most of Sen. Gutierrez’ Democratic colleagues failed to back him up. The Senate upheld Patrick’s ruling in a 29-2 vote.
To learn more about gun violence in Texas, visit the RA News Gun Violence Watch page.