U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw is taking heat from both sides of the political aisle since the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, for comments on social media in which he extols virtues of the AR-15 assault-style rifle for self-defense, and voices support for red flag laws that take guns away from people found to be a danger to themselves or others.
First, Crenshaw, a Houston Republican in his first year in office, found himself at the center of criticism from Democrats after a video was released via YouTube the day before the shooting in which Crenshaw says AR-15 rifles are a good choice for self-defense.
“The reality is that an AR-15 type weapon is the most effective weapon for ranges up to 20 to 30 feet, which by the way is the size of your living room if you’re trying to defend your home,” said Crenshaw, who represents the 2nd Congressional District that stretches from West Houston to Humble and Atascocita.
On the video he says if someone is not that good with a weapon, the AR-15 is the best chance for hitting an intruder in your home in a high stress situation.
“The chance of you hitting that target with just a pistol are very, very low,” Crenshaw says.
The video was produced for The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet founded by FOX News personality Tucker Carlson. After the shootings on Saturday, The Daily Caller took the video off its website, but left the YouTube video up.
Crenshaw’s critics, including his likely 2020 Democratic opponent Elisa Cardnell, were quick to criticize Crenshaw for making the video.
“This rhetoric is wildly irresponsible and dangerous,” Cardnell said “As leaders, we must use our power and privilege to speak up and end gun violence.”
But Crenshaw is not apologizing for the video, saying as a retired Navy SEAL he is well-versed on the capabilities of firearms and the risks that accompany them.
“In the wake of two mass shootings in 24 hours, I feel that it is my duty, as someone very knowledgeable about how these weapons operate, to foster a reasonable, candid conversation about how we combat mass shootings, but also ensure we do not infringe on the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Crenshaw said.
Carnell, also a Navy veteran, said when she was in the military she was taught to use a 9mm handgun to defend a ship.
“You don’t need an assault rifle to defend yourself,” Cardnell said. “Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our schools.”
But Crenshaw also drew criticism from the other side of the political spectrum after he posted on Twitter that the nation should consider red flag laws, which can prevent people who pose a danger to themselves or others from buying or possessing guns. One red flag proposal is part of a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
“The solutions aren’t obvious, even if we pretend they are,” Crenshaw said. “But we must try. Let’s start with the TAPS Act. Maybe also implement state ‘red flag’ laws, or gun violence restraining orders. Stop them before they can hurt someone.”
While Crenshaw got some praise for the idea, it provoked an angry response from some conservatives who called Crenshaw a “turncoat” among other things.
But just as with the video, Crenshaw said he’s not backing away from talking about red flag laws just because it’s upsetting people.
“It’s clear that the solution is not simple and that policy proposals on this issue will always have a strong emotional component,” Crenshaw told the Chronicle. “Are red flag laws part of the solution? We don’t know yet, but they should be part of the conversation. We have to get past the heated rhetoric and work together to find the best way to better protect our communities and our country.”
On Wednesday, Crenshaw was the subject of a protest rally outside his Kingwood office organized by a group called Indivisible Houston, which wants Crenshaw to condemn President Donald Trump’s rhetoric that they say is contributing to the violence.
“Dan Crenshaw has claimed opposition to white supremacy; however, since he has not addressed the role of the White House’s rhetoric, calls for change ring hollow,” a statement from the group to the media said. “This protest calls for comprehensive gun reform and specifically pointing out the role of Trump’s dog whistles in white supremacist violence.”
After the shooting in El Paso, Crenshaw was fast to condemn white supremacy.
“Violence against another human being because of their ethnicity is one of the most disgusting forms of evil that exists. It must be rooted out, white supremacy has no place in this world,” Crenshaw wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
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