Last week, the Wendy Davis campaign surprised Texas with an abrupt pivot in conversation. Under a firestorm of criticism for the many falsehoods touted in her biography, a candidate known only for amorphous “feminism” and support of abortion started talking about guns.
Now, in the middle of the scandal, Davis suddenly decided she supports gun rights.
Davis and her campaign told the Associated Press last week that Davis expects to campaign to “expand where people may carry handguns.” While much of the AP’s conversation with her involved discussing why she will not talk about details of her personal life now that she has made it the centerpiece of her campaign, she did shoehorn in chatter about her plans to help gun owners.
Davis told the AP that she owns a handgun for protection (though did not specify whether she hunts or shoots recreationally). She claimed that she “supports legislation that allows workers to keep guns in their vehicles at work.” She seemed confident that she had a good track record with gun rights supporters, telling the news network, “I think I have been pretty strong in supporting the expansion of the rights of gun ownership.”
This might come as a surprise to those who know Davis as a one-trick pony on abortion, which she has tied to feminism and made a platform out of. After all, gun rights are not mentioned anywhere on the “Issues” portion of her website, and she herself has said little about guns until today. Perhaps this is because before she suddenly did an about-face on the matter so strong as to want to pass legislation that lets Texans leave guns in their cars at work, she was one of the NRA’s worst enemies in the Texas Senate.
The NRA gave Davis an F rating on gun rights for her tenure in the Texas Senate due to her voting history against laws expanding the freedom of Americans to carry guns. Specifically, Davis voted against and blocked a bill that sounds oddly familiar to the one she is proposing today. “Anti-gun” Davis, according to the NRA, “blocked NRA-backed legislation allowing adult Concealed Handgun Licensees to carry firearms for self-defense on college and university campuses from coming up for a final vote during the regular session that ended Memorial Day weekend.”
Davis has also half-heartedly advocated for background checks at gun shows. While telling the Texas Tribune that she believed the background checks were “the right thing,” she admitted she had not worked on the issue because she did not see it as politically expedient: “I haven’t pursued it as a senator because I know it’s like spitting in the wind.”
A former Republican who donated to Republican candidates and voted in primaries as recently as 2006, Davis was initially looked askance at by Texas Democrats, who seemed to view her with suspicion. She took that as a “compliment,” because it showed people understood she “wasn’t driven by” ideology.
Republican opponent Greg Abbott, who has a strong record of supporting gun rights, initially highlighted Davis’s unpopular stance on guns in Texas, perhaps triggering this reaction from the Davis campaign.