February 6, 2020 — Today, Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced its endorsement of MJ Hegar for United States Senate in Texas in the primary to take on incumbent Senator John Cornyn.
“MJ served her country before and now she stands ready to serve the people of Texas in the Senate. She isn’t afraid of the big challenges our country faces and will never let special interests get in the way of progress for Texans,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords. “Like too many others, MJ is personally familiar with the pain and devastation caused by America’s gun violence crisis. She knows families are tired of living with daily worries about lockdown drills and shootings and are looking for leaders who will fight for gun safety solutions. The contrast in this race couldn’t be more clear: While her opponent has become one of the NRA’s favorite politicians, MJ is a veteran who has the courage to take on the gun lobby in Washington, DC.”
As a survivor of childhood domestic gun violence and a veteran, MJ understands the trauma that gun violence inflicts. On the campaign trail, MJ has proven her commitment to gun safety by openly calling for passing universal background checks, enacting extreme risk protection orders, and closing the boyfriend loophole, and she will continue to be a gun safety champion when she is elected this fall.
A recent Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll finds that a large majority of Texans strongly back gun safety laws like background checks and extreme risk protection orders. Support for background checks was the highest ranked policy with 86 percent approval. 68 percent of respondents express support for extreme risk laws and 58 percent approved of a ban on high-capacity magazines.
“For decades John Cornyn has taken campaign cash from the NRA while opposing commonsense gun safety legislation,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords. “Whether it’s Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School, or El Paso, Senator Cornyn’s playbook has remained the same: pay lip service to change but ultimately side with the gun lobby. His inability to address a crisis that hurts Texas every single day means it’s time the state got a new leader in the Senate. MJ Hegar has the toughness and tenacity to make real progress on strengthening our gun laws. That’s why we’re proud to endorse MJ and will fight to make sure her voice as a gun safety champion will be heard in the Senate next year.”
MJ Hegar’s service to her country began long before she decided to run for Senate. As an Air Force pilot, she served three tours in Afghanistan, receiving the Distinguished Cross for Valor, one of the few women to do so, and the Purple Heart for making courageous sacrifices and sustaining injuries in the line of fire on her third tour. Upon leaving the military, she went home to Texas, where she continued advocating for gender equality in the military before running for Congress in Texas’s 31st District in 2018. In that race, she managed to come within a three-point margin of victory in a historically Republican district, evidence of a major political shift happening in the state.
Giffords’ endorsement of MJ continues the organization’s efforts to elect a gun safety majority in the US Senate. While the House of Representatives has approached gun safety legislation with the seriousness and urgency needed to solve our country’s gun violence epidemic, their counterparts in the Senate have stalled and obstructed any and all gun safety bills sent to them by the House. That’s why Giffords invested nearly $750,000 in ads calling out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) for failing to support H.R. 8 last year.
Giffords is also leading the effort to make this the year the country elects a #GunSafetyPresident. We launched a video campaign this past fall that allowed the American people to hear directly from leading Democratic candidates for president about gun violence—the issue keeping people up at night and dominating discussion at kitchen tables across the country. They also joined with March For Our Lives to host a 2020 gun safety forum in Las Vegas in October.
Recently released polling shows that the issue of gun safety is becoming a major factor for voters, and one that is critical to winning elections in these areas of the country. Fifty-nine percent of suburban women in the swing states of Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas support stronger gun laws and say this issue is “very important” to their vote. An even larger group (64%) says that they would never vote for a candidate who didn’t support “requiring background checks on all gun sales,” outranking 13 other social and economic policy positions as the top voting determinant. Responses like these underscore that suburban women increasingly want a leader committed to gun safety.