An off the cuff comment by Texas Governor Greg Abbott has drawn criticism from gun control and free press advocates who called his remarks “dangerous.”
Gov. Abbott signed Senate Bill 16 into law, lowering the cost of a handgun license, at an indoor gun range in Austin on Friday. The law reduces the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the renewal fee from $70 to $40. A license to carry permit is valid in Texas for five years. The new fee will go into effect on Sept. 1.
The Governor then demonstrated his own shooting skills on the gun range before holding up his target and saying, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.”
A photo of the moment, published by the Texas Tribune, showed the grinning first-term Republican governor pointing to the center of the paper target, where three rounds had pierced the bull’s eye circle.
His comment drew sharp rebukes from Reporters Without Borders, headquartered in Paris, and the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Both said the incident was especially troubling as it came amid increasingly hostile rhetoric directed against the news media by Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters.
“This joke was dangerous and out of line. Because it’s never just a joke to some,” Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said in a statement. “Words matter. In a state and country where dangerous people can still so easily buy guns without a background check, leaders of every political stripe should be careful not to green light violence on their behalf.”
The two groups also cited the misdemeanor assault charge filed on Wednesday against Republican Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana, accused of body-slamming a reporter who asked him about healthcare on the eve of his election.
“Politicians must condemn this dangerous rhetoric against reporters as it can quickly escalate to physical violence like we saw in Montana,” Reporters Without Borders said in a Tweet.
Of course, there is also the possibility that the Texas Governor’s remark was meant as nothing more than wanting to show off his skill to any reporters he might see. Perhaps this is nothing more than thin-skinned overreaction on the part of some, but then again a “thinly veiled threat” against reporters by a Republican Governor is much more “newsworthy” than a Governor being proud of his accomplishments at the range. Shooting from a wheelchair no less. If they can blame it on President Trump then it becomes even more “newsworty.”