The presidential ticket has not been kind to voters for the last two election cycles. I know I struggled to keep my makeshift stylus from shaking as I selected the Biden-Harris option. Fortunately, there are some races where I am genuinely excited to support a candidate. Look no further than the Texas Senate race, for example. While incumbent John Cornyn is popular among Texans, MJ Hegar is the candidate who will best serve our state.
One of the most significant issues for Texas is the issue of gun ownership rights. In the last three months, I cannot count how many NRA ads I’ve seen fear-mongering about how Hegar wants to take away Texans’ guns. Let’s set the record straight – Hegar supports common-sense restrictions, not mass disarmament.
Hegar is in favor of requiring background checks on all firearm purchases and implementing red flag laws. A red flag law would enable police to temporarily seize firearms from individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or the public. This policy may seem preposterous, but almost 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, and 86 percent support red flag laws.
Cornyn introduced legislation last year to improve mental health treatment, increase school security and strengthen law enforcement. However, this bill did not include measures to expand background checks or implement red flag laws. While the provisions for mental health are a step in the right direction, Cornyn’s record falls short of what the American people want and need. The mass shootings in Odessa and El Paso did not take place in a school. Moreover, the Odessa shooter bought a gun from a Lubbock man even after failing a background check for mental health. Why Cornyn didn’t include provisions that are both popular and necessary baffles me.
The most significant change Hegar would make is prohibiting open carry gun laws. She argues open carry makes bystanders feel less safe and many Texans are inclined to agree. A 2016 study shows 37 percent, a plurality, of Texans feel less secure with open carry. Although this idea may seem radical, the policy wouldn’t impede gun owners from purchasing firearms. Instead, Hegar simply wants gun owners to hide their firearms to ameliorate some peoples’ concern.
Hegar is not coming for your guns — I would not endorse her if she threatened our Second Amendment rights. Her priority is to keep our communities safe by equipping law enforcement with the tools to remove guns from dangerous households. Moreover, her goal is for only responsible citizens to own firearms.
Given the country is in the middle of a pandemic, health care is potentially the most critical issue for voters this year. Hegar has adopted Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it,” favoring a public option over a single-payer system. On the other hand, Cornyn advocates for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act as well as lowering prescription drug prices.
While ideological divisions still split many on the ACA’s future, about two-thirds of Americans support a public option similar to Hegar’s plan. Given the GOP’s plan has failed in the past, building on the ACA will be more advantageous for Texans. Especially considering the suffering COVID-19 will continue to cause, we should not be trying to repeal health care that many rely upon.
The protests in Austin have made clear we can no longer ignore our broken criminal justice system. Cornyn has taken many steps to improve our criminal justice system, like introducing the First Step Act. However, Hegar should be the clear choice because she embraces many policies from Campaign Zero.
For example, Texans could expect more community involvement in policing. Hegar would encourage cities to use more civilian first responders, focus on de-escalating situations and seek community feedback. These simple steps to engage citizens can help restore trust in police forces. Increasing accountability should be our focus, not giving law enforcement more power.
Hegar represents the positions that most Americans favor. She is not only the Democratic Party’s candidate but the candidate for democracy as well. When you go to the polls on Nov. 3, consider voting for the blue ticket. Our communities and future will be better with Hegar’s bold vision.
Caleb Powell is a biomedical engineering sophomore and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Wednesday when not in the Thursday newspaper.