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Tipsheet

The Border and Guns: GOP Congressman's District at the Center of Two Major Flashpoints

Tony Gonzales for Congress

Since the beginning of Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales' (R) term, his 23rd congressional district, has contended with an insurmountable surge of illegal crossing at the U.S.-Mexico that started with Joe Biden becoming president.

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With the 23rd congressional district the majority of the border with Coahuila and Chihuahua, it has seen its fair share of the ongoing crisis. The Del Rio Sector often battles the Rio Grande Valley Sector, which is outside the district, for the No. 1 spot with Border Patrol illegal immigrant encounters. The Del Rio Sector was the area that experienced the surge in Haitians illegally crossing into Del Rio last September resulting in tens of thousands having to camp underneath the international bridge in the Texas heat.

Gonzales has been at the forefront of the issue and hasn't had to face a lot of public scrutiny from Democrats since the Democratic Party has tried to ignore the glaring issue. That changed after May 24 when a Uvalde, Texas local attacked Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and two teachers with an AR-15. Now not only does Gonzales' district is at the center of an issue popular among Republicans, but is now centered around a separate issue popular among Democrats.

Gonzales voted against the recent gun control bill the House put on the floor in response to Uvalde and Buffalo. Named the "Protect Our Kids Act," the bill raises the age to buy centerfire rifles from 18 to 21, ban the sale of magazines that holds more than 15 rounds, and bans bump stocks.

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"Look, the House is broken. You have this socialist Left that all they want to do is take guns away from law-abiding citizens. They want to kill the oil and gas industry. They don't want you to eat meat. Just these radical, radical positions," Gonzales told Townhall explaining his vote.

"It's really disappointing to see instead of taking a moment — Uvalde should've been a time where everyone goes, 'Man, how do we come together'...The Senate did that. The Senate basically got some people in a room and hashed out some some things," he continued. "We didn't do that in the House. What did we do? What is the most partisan package that Nancy Pelosi can put together? For one reason, only one reason...last week's vote was about running ads in November."

Because Gonzales is not onboard with proposals such as an "assault weapons" ban and "high capacity" magazine ban, he has faced a wave of online backlash from Democrats and progressives.

"I'm elected to represent my district. And the left, the progressive left, all they want is to use this as a political moment to further their agenda. They hate the fact someone like me that isn't getting on T.V. and falling in line with their ideals," he said, noting the "ugly" verbal attacks against himself and his family, including death threats, does not matter because he swore an oath to the Constitution.

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Gonzales said as things stand now, he supports the framework of the bipartisan "mental health" bill the Senate has agreed to. In addition to more funding towards mental health resources for schools and other institutions, the framework agrees to provide grants to states to enforce red flag laws.

"The state of Texas does not have red flag laws. So what guess what? We're not gonna take a nickel of that. Nor do I want want us to take a nickel of that. What I do hope we do, I hope we take all that mental health money. In my district, when I got elected, the very first thing they asked for in Uvalde, was a mental health hospital."

The law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School shooting has also been heavily criticized not only because the shooter was in the school for almost an hour before finally being killed but also because law enforcement information about the shooting changed multiple times.

"This is what I've gathered. The fact it was a steel door and they didn't have the tool they needed to get in was what they were waiting on," Gonzales said. A game warden who was on the scene went back to his truck to grab a crowbar and a sledgehammer. While that was happening, a school employee was trying to find the right key needed to open the door, eating up valuable amounts of time. 

"Some of their own children were in that room. I mean their own children. They weren't cowards, they weren't waiting for orders, they weren't afraid to go in because they didn't have armor," Gonzales said about the officers who were in the hallway. "I guarantee you, they wanted to get in as fast as humanly possible. The story I've been told, is the guy that was looking for the keys to open the place, had a child in that room that passed away."

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That said, Gonzales acknowledged mistakes were made and the facts of what occurred need to be known.

Even though most of Gonzales' attention has recently been focused on the issue of school shootings, he still has to contend with the high number of daily illegal crossings into his district. Gonzales explained when President Joe Biden visited Uvalde shortly after the attack, he said he asked Biden to have a sit down meeting at the White House to address the border crisis. Gonzales said Biden agreed to the idea but a date for it still needs to be solidified.

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