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Packing heat and pumping gas, Texas voter defends gun rights

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David, a Hispanic 33-year-old Texan in Houston who will vote for a candidate who protects his gun ownership rights./AFP
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Oct 27, 2022 - 12:56 PM

HOUSTON — At a gas station in Houston, David Blanco fills up the tank of his car, a Glock 19 pistol clearly visible on his left hip.

The Hispanic Texan says that in the crucial mid-term US elections coming up in less than two weeks, “the criteria that would mainly make me want to go out (and vote) is strictly firearms at the moment.”

Blanco, a serious-looking 33-year-old, had never been interested much in politics before, and didn’t normally vote.

But things changed, he said, when politicians “started threatening the Second Amendment, saying that, ‘Oh, we’re gonna ban AR-15s and high-capacity magazines.'”

“I was like, ‘You know what, maybe I should get involved now, maybe I should look more into it, and see who’s for protecting my rights that are guaranteed to me” under the US Constitution.

Blanco now scrutinizes the past of candidates for Congress, governor and county judge, among the positions contested in the November 8 elections, watching for any questioning of the right to bear arms which is so important to him.

The choice is not as clear-cut as it might seem. “There are some politicians on the Republican or conservative side that are anti-gun also,” he said, even if Republicans traditionally tend to favor gun rights.

In Texas, which has some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, the weapon is king — something no politician wishing to make a career here can afford to ignore.

But in Houston, a Democratic stronghold in a fiercely Republican state, seeing residents walking around armed is rare.

If Blanco wants to show off his firearm, he says it is to deter any would-be attacker.

He has eight pistols and rifles, because “if anything bad happens, you can arm your neighbors and they can help you with, you know, any situation that happens to come along.”

He also uses them to practice shooting, his favorite hobby.

Suicide 

A city dweller of Hispanic origin, Blanco does not fit the typical profile of the American gun owner, who is generally white and rural.

In 2021, 47 percent of white adults said they lived in a household with firearms, compared to just 26 percent of those of Hispanic origin, according to the Pew Research Center.

Blanco lives with a roommate in a neighborhood where shootings are not uncommon.

It is also the area where he grew up, raised by a Mexican mother who always lived in fear of being robbed.

He is constantly on guard. As a cyclist passes, he watches, wary he could be a thief on the prowl.

Three events in his youth convinced him to carry a gun: a burglary at a friend’s place, a shooting in a neighboring house and, finally, Hurricane Ike, which plunged his neighborhood into darkness for several days in 2008.

During nights punctuated by regular gunshots, the family protected their house from looters with a rifle belonging to Blanco’s older brother, Humberto. The experience marked David deeply.

He is, however, well placed to understand the tragedies that firearms cause.

Two years after Hurricane Ike, he heard his older brother handling his shotgun one day.

Frightened, Blanco called the police, who on arrival discovered Humberto had committed suicide.

Gun violence is a national crisis in the United States, where mass shootings have become commonplace. In 2020, the most recent year with complete data available, more than 45,200 people died from gun-related injuries.

More than half of gun deaths in America are suicides, a fact regularly advanced by those who defend stricter gun control laws.

Blanco doesn’t see it that way. “He could have hanged himself,” he said of his brother.

AR-15 

In May, Texas was rocked by one of the worst school shootings in US history.

A young gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school in Uvalde, using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a type of weapon regularly used in this type of slaughter.

“It’s very sad what happened,” said Blanco. But condemning the crime is not, in his opinion, the same thing as condemning the weapon.

To those who say the average citizen doesn’t need such guns to defend themselves, he replies “there’s all kinds of situations that you could use an AR-15 for.”

He has two of them, and thinks this could allow him to respond more quickly to a possible threat.

These are words that Greg Abbott, the current Texas governor and a candidate for re-election, would agree with.

Last year, the Republican allowed almost all Texans to carry a gun openly, without training and without a license.

He is the big favorite against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is calling for tougher restrictions.

After the mass killing in Uvalde, O’Rourke stood out when he interrupted Abbott during a press conference, reproaching him for his inaction.

But even O’Rourke says on his web site he is “proud of Texas’ long tradition of responsible gun ownership.”

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