District 34 candidates address gun violence

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jun. 4—Early voting is underway in the special election for the District 34 Congressional seat, and four candidates are vying for a victory.

The special election was necessary after U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, retired from office before his term was finished. In their campaigns to replace Vela in office, four candidates running to fill his position are addressing everything from gun violence to what they would do if they were to hold the seat for six months.

Vela's term ends in January, which means the candidate who wins the June 14 election will have a short time in office to address the issues on the minds of the American people.

Running to fill the unexpired term for Congressional District 34 as appearing on the ballot are Democrat Rene Coronado, Republican Juana "Janie" Cantu Cabrera, Democrat Dan Sanchez, and Republican Mayra Flores.

Futuro RGV held a candidate forum for the District 34 candidates Tuesday in which three of the four candidates discussed what they would do regarding gun violence and what issues they would bring to the forefront that impact the Rio Grande Valley.

Coronado, Cantu Cabrera and Sanchez attended the forum.

Flores did not participate because of a scheduling conflict. However, she provided a written statement in which she addressed the single biggest asset in District 34.

"Our people's values, you see it all across the district, the values that I was lucky enough to be raised with, pro-family, pro-God, kindness to strangers, a strong blue collar work ethic and we are pro-America. We are blessed to live in such a wonderful area, and we all need to work very hard to keep it that way," Flores wrote.

Watch the forum here.

The candidates participating in the live forum talked about gun violence and what should be done to try and curb it.

On May 24, 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde were killed in one of the deadliest mass school shootings. An 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle entered the school, shooting and killing the children and teachers before he was eventually killed by law enforcement.

Sanchez said what happened in Uvalde was "horrendous" and that many of the violent acts that have occurred over the past years have been committed by people 20 years old or younger.

"Most of these situations have been caused by people that had mental illness, but it can start by raising the (age) limit, and I am not talking about on anyone. I would say raise the limit to 21 unless you are in law enforcement or a veteran that has actually been trained. I would say we need that background check that will look into the mental health of people before you release an assault rifle to them and a waiting period," Sanchez said.

About two weeks prior to the Uvalde massacre, an 18-year-old also armed with an assault rifle opened-fire in a Buffalo grocery store killing 10 people. Authorities said he had been planning this attack.

Cantu Cabrera said although she supports background checks, she doesn't believe it is necessary to raise the age to 21 from 18 for someone wanting to purchase a firearm.

"We can go behind the wheel and drive and we can hurt bunches and bunches of people," she said. "It is mental health that was the issue here (in Uvalde). It was somebody with a mental problem. Now how we address it, how we can get law enforcement to react quicker...there are so many things that we can think about."

On Wednesday, an armed gunman shot and killed four people at a medical office in Tulsa Oklahoma. Authorities said the 45-year-old man purchased the semi-automatic rifle a few hours before the killings.

Coronado, who served in the military and is a former law enforcement officer, said he knows about firearms and was trained how to use them. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Army.

"I think it is something that we do need to change. I agree with Dan that we need to increase the age to 21 to buy a weapon. It's just like alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, 21 should be the age. And I agree that mental health is something else that we have to address, but we can do both. We can address mental health, provide more resources and funding for mental health and then we can also change the laws," Coronado said.

The Brownsville Herald reached out to Flores and her campaign for comments on gun violence, but did not receive a reply.

As of Friday, 3,651 registered voters had cast ballots in the race.

Early voting continues through June 10. Election day is June 14.

Remi Garza, elections administrator for the Cameron County's Elections and Voter Registration Department, said in an earlier interview, that in order to win the race one candidate has to receive 50% plus one vote in order to avoid a runoff.

"If there is no candidate that receives that majority then it goes to a runoff that will be held in mid-August," Garza said.

"I think it's important to remember that this is similar to a November election except that there are multiple representatives from each party on the ballot," Garza said, adding that anyone can vote in this election, "it doesn't have anything to do with the March primaries or the runoffs. This is like a November election where anybody can vote that is a registered voter in Cameron County."