State and federal lawmakers are unlikely to heed Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker’s call for new gun laws, according to elected officials.

Parker’s proposals signal that the lone Republican mayor of a major city in Texas is forging her own path in politics, bucking the majority of members in her political party, according to a political scientist.

Parker recognizes the political reality of Texas and the nation. The mayor told the Fort Worth Report she has spoken with some lawmakers to see what change could come from the mass shooting in Uvalde. She is unsure of what the Texas Legislature or the U.S. Congress will do, but she expects to face partisanship. 

“It’s difficult right now. It’s a really toxic environment,” Parker said.

Parker increasingly finds herself in a unique position. She is a Republican leading an urban city where most of its residents are people of color. These factors are likely pushing Parker, whose elected office as mayor is supposed to be nonpartisan, to evolve, said James Riddlesperger, a Texas Christian University political science professor.

“That isn’t to say that she doesn’t have many of the values and views that she’s always had,” Riddlesperger said. “But that as the Republican Party has become more conservative, you’ve seen her moderating a bit to reflect the needs and the realities of urban America.” 

The mayor has distanced herself from the GOP. During a Texas Tribune conservation in Fort Worth, Parker said she could not look herself in the mirror and run in a Republican primary because of how partisan the party has become. 

Republicans control all three branches of government in Texas. That makes it harder to see any change in gun policies, Riddlesperger said. Another factor is organized opposition against gun reform laws on the national level. All of this makes it difficult to move the needle on measures related to guns, Riddlesperger said.

State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, applauded Parker for her statement. But he pointed out a mayor doesn’t have much policy-making power on what happens in the Legislature or in Congress. Romero hopes more Republicans support positions similar to Parker’s.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz did not respond to Report requests to comment. Neither did any of the state House Republicans who represent Tarrant County. U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, was not available to comment on the issue, according to a spokesperson.

Cruz and Cornyn are taking different approaches to stopping future mass shootings. Cruz wants to harden schools, the senator said in a recent interview on Fox News. He wants schools to only have one entrance that has an armed police officer. 

Cornyn is leading a bipartisan group of senators to form gun legislation that could have a chance of passing through Congress. Some proposals under consideration include changing the background check system and more investment in mental health and school security.

Cornyn told Politico it would be embarrassing if Congress could not pass any laws in the wake of the Uvalde shooting. 

Meanwhile, in the lower chamber, the House Judiciary Committee voted on June 2 to advance the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” a gun proposal bill. One of the proposals includes raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old.  

The legislation passed by a vote of 25-19. All Republicans on the committee voted against it. The bill will be brought to the Rules Committee and for a vote on the House floor in the week of June 6.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, who represents part of Fort Worth, is a member of the Rules Committee. The bill is a political statement rather than a solution, he said. There was no thoughtful discussion about it.

“There’ll be some rabid wild rhetoric for the next couple of days in the House as these things are debated,” Burgess said.

The focus should be on mental health and behavior intervention at the early stages, he said. There should be armed police officers and personnel to keep schools safe. It should not be restricting people’s second amendment rights.

When asked if more gun legislation could prevent future mass shootings, he said “the one in Buffalo, New York, and the one in Uvalde, Texas, both (of the shooters) passed background checks, didn’t they?”

On the local level, outgoing Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican, echoed Parker’s statement on tighter gun laws such as raising the age limit to 21 for people to get assault rifles.

But Whitley was not sure whether Parker could garner support on the state and national level. And he knows his reach is within the county line, where he already has taken action.

The county has set aside about $40 million from the American Rescue Plan Act funding to work on mitigating gun and gang violence, Whitley said. The county will also work to educate residents on how to store guns in safe places and ensure they have access to gun locks.

Parker released her statement four days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde elementary school. It was the second deadliest school shooting in the nation’s history. She wrote she was frustrated that current gun laws are not preventing mass shootings and gun violence.

“In Texas, you must be 21 years old to buy alcohol or tobacco and also to purchase a handgun. Yet, an 18-year-old can purchase an assault rifle, does this make sense?” Parker wrote in the statement. “Absolutely not.”

The mayor released the statement with two key points in mind. First, she plans to be pragmatic and solution-oriented with a focus on the city. Second, it was personal for her. The shooting happened in Texas, and she has two school-aged children. 

Fort Worth police, fire and medical departments are training for active shooter situations and evaluating the security of schools across the city, Parker said.

As a mayor, she knows what she can and can’t do, she told the Report.

“I don’t think anger and finger-pointing solve problems. I’m still hopeful that, both in Washington and in Austin, we can find some common-sense solutions and work together to find those from people from both parties.”

Chongyang Zhang is a summer fellow reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at chongyang.zhang@forthworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here

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Chongyang Zhang

Chongyang Zhang graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2021. Previously, he worked for his school newspaper, The Shorthorn, for a year and a half.