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AT&T and Other Companies Backed Texas Lawmakers Who Loosened Gun Laws

In a pretaped video, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) addresses the NRA convention in Houston Friday.

 

(Image: Photo by Brandon Bell / Getty Images.)

While corporate America is voicing sympathy and support in the wake of multiple mass shootings, they’re also writing checks to the state lawmakers making it easier for shooters to get guns. A review of state campaign-finance records shows that pattern holds true in Texas.

Last week, 21 people were gunned down in at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, a small, predominantly Hispanic town 85 miles west of San Antonio.

There have been 230 mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There have been 27 in schools, including Uvalde, in 2022 alone. Since Uvalde there have been 20 more mass shootings. Four people were shot at a prom party in Philadelphia. Over the weekend, five teens were injured and another shot at a party in Phoenix, AZ, and six were injured in another shooting in downtown Chattanooga, TN.

There have been 21 mass shootings this year in Texas, which has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. And some of the world’s biggest corporations and notable billionaires have bankrolled the legislators who put those loose gun laws on the books.

In June 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed seven laws loosening gun restrictions, such as making it legal to carry a gun without a permit. All told, lax Texas laws helped enable the shooter to obtain and legally carry the weapon he used to murder school children and their teachers.

The seven laws that passed last year were authored by several different Republican lawmakers in the largely conservative state legislature. Two lawmakers co-authored multiple bills — state Senators Dr. Charles Schwertner (R-5) and Drew Springer (R-30).

Springer, who represents towns north of Dallas including Denton and Wichita Falls, co-authored one law removing shoulder and belt holster requirements for gun owners. Another Springer bill decriminalized the possession of a firearm silencer.

Schwertner, who represents Georgetown (a suburb north of Austin), co-authored the bill allowing Texans to carry handguns without a license. He also co-authored a bill barring governmental organizations from contracting with businesses that “discriminate” against institutions that support firearms and ammunition.

That law essentially incentivizes businesses to look the other way when it comes to potentially dangerous behavior regarding guns.

The Springer and Schwertner bills, among others, were signed into law by Abbott. But who bankrolled Springer and Schertner?

Corporate America’s Gun-Friendly Donations

Quite a few companies – including Raytheon, UPS, and Walmart – donated to Abbott, Springer, and Schwertner. But the support from those companies pales in comparison to the backing from AT&T, as well as from brands associated with billionaire Tilman Fertitta.

AT&T spent a combined $89,019 between the two state senators. For Springer, the telecom company donated on seven different occasions. Donations totaled more than $28,000. The most recent donations, in 2020, were the big ones, totaling $20,000.

AT&T spent even more to elect Schwertner. The company has donated almost $61,000 to him since 2010, including a $10,000 contribution in late October 2021 — less than two months after his looser gun laws took effect.

In the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, AT&T sponsored a blood drive to ensure there was enough on hand to treat the survivors. AT&T also started a “text to give” campaign for survivors of the Buffalo shooting, and family of the victims.

But Dallas-based AT&T also has a long record of helping to elect legislators whose laws make shootings like these more likely.

In addition to Springer and Schwertner, AT&T also donated $115,000 to Abbott just since 2019. One pro-gun law Abbott supported “threaten[ed] to override the very democratic systems upon which the country was built,” according to The Southern Poverty Law Center. AT&T did not respond to TYT’s request for comment.

And Abbott has been moving further right and increasingly embraced extremism. He’s been referred to as an extremist on a multitude of issues.

Abbott has not taken any responsibility for the role his newly signed gun laws may have had making mass shootings more likely. In recent days, Abbott tried to deflect by citing gun violence in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. (He was called out for those misleading and racist claims; New York and Los Angeles still are considered some of the safest cities in the world according to The Economist’s Safe Cities index.)

Abbott was set to speak at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston last week despite the tragic events in Uvalde. He ended up going to Uvalde, but delivered pretaped remarks to the NRA. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former President Donald Trump spoke live.

Abbott, along with Springer and Schwertner, is also backed by Fertitta, the billionaire owner of the Houston Rockets and a mainstay in Texas’s business world— especially in the Houston area. He is the CEO of Landry's, the hospitality company that owns hotels like The Golden Nugget and restaurant chains including The Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Fertitta personally donated $17,000 to the two state senators. He adonated $5000 to Springer as recently as November 2021. He has donated $12,000 to Schwertner.

To Abbott, Fertitta has donated a staggering $966,000. Most recently he donated $200,000 to Abbott in June 2021. That’s when Abbott signed the seven gun bills into law.

Separately, Landry's, one of Fertitta’s companies, donated $4000 to Schwertner back in 2017. The hospitality giant also donated $1000 to Springer. Neither Landry’s nor the NBA responded to our request for comment.

Fertitta also has had his own show on CNBC, called Billion Dollar Buyer. CNBC’s parent company, Comcast/NBCUniversal, has donated $1000 to Springer and $4000 to Schwertner, but made no recent donations.

The last time the media company donated to Schwertner was back in 2016. Although Ferititta’s show hasn’t officially been canceled, CNBC has not produced a new season since 2018. We reached out to NBC Universal. The company did not return our request for comment. Neither did Springer, Schwertner, and Abbott.

Andy Hirschfeld is a freelance reporter. You can find him on Twitter @andyreports

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