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What, if anything, might Congress do about years of mass shootings?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's continue the discussion with Joaquin Castro, a member of Congress representing the 20th District of Texas, just a little bit east of Uvalde. Congressman, welcome to the program.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And we'll mention that you're on Skype. Everybody, I think, took a breath yesterday or maybe a gasp yesterday and maybe got some sleep. Having had a night to absorb this news, what are you thinking?

CASTRO: Oh, just, you know, absolutely heartbroken and devastated to see what this gun violence has done to the community of Uvalde. It's a small, tightknit community with wonderful people. And just to see the devastation and to start to see the faces of the victims come out, it's an overwhelmingly Mexican American community. It's about 80% Mexican American and, you know - just tragedy. As a parent, I dropped my kids off to school, my elementary school kids, about 45 minutes ago, and, you know, just staring at the building and wondering if something like that could happen at my kids' school. I think that's what a lot of parents are thinking about this morning.

INSKEEP: Yeah. What do you make of the repetition of this? It's almost a decade since Sandy Hook. There have been other school shootings in between, along with many other kinds of mass shootings.

CASTRO: Well, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that when this happens over and over in different contexts, in supermarkets, in schools, in churches, in synagogues, that they're a crop of politicians who are OK with these kinds of mass shootings happening. And Congress and state legislatures around the country have had an opportunity to do something to change this, to improve it. And yet - I'll just take the body that I serve in - Senate Republicans and House Republicans have refused to do things like universal background checks that have 90% support of the American people. So the American people are not debating what they believe about this; it's mostly Republican politicians who aren't listening to the American people and are failing to take action.

INSKEEP: Your state's lieutenant governor would say, I'm not OK with this; I want more security in schools. That was what he suggested as a solution to this. Is that a practical solution?

CASTRO: That's a deflection and a cop-out. The idea that one entry and exit at a school is going to solve all of this and that it's no deeper than that is ridiculous for Dan Patrick to say. And the fact is that after the massacre in El Paso that claimed the lives of more than 20 people who were also targeted because they were Hispanic - or they were targeted because they were Hispanic, just like African Americans were targeted in Buffalo. That doesn't appear to be the case here, or at least that hasn't been said. But the governor and the state leaders promised to do something about this problem, and instead, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick made it easier for people to get guns in Texas, including weapons of war that can mow people down, 20 - 15, 20 people in a matter of seconds, before anybody really has a chance to even react.

INSKEEP: Is this, then, fundamentally a matter of future elections - people who disagree with you are in office in too great of numbers for your side to overcome them, and you need to win elections with a different platform?

CASTRO: I mean, yeah. I mean, you have these people who, despite 90% of Americans supporting universal background checks and the House of Representatives having already passed a bill to do that in H.R.8 - you know, they are basically, you know, mesmerized. They're enslaved to the gun lobby. They're enslaved to the NRA. They're deathly afraid, in a cowardly way, of losing their political jobs, their political careers, if they cross the NRA.

INSKEEP: Let me follow up a little bit on that if I can. I would imagine if one of those lawmakers were here, they might say, I'm actually just representing my constituents who believe in Second Amendment rights and have strong views about it. I mean, you represent a part of Texas. You probably represent a lot of gun owners yourself.

CASTRO: Sure. No, absolutely.

INSKEEP: What's the political complexity of seeking change and getting enough people behind it?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, look - I think - you're right. There are a lot of gun owners in Texas. And I think when Texans think of guns, they usually think of them in two contexts. No. 1, people want to have a gun in their house in case somebody breaks in at 3 in the morning and tries to harm they or their family members, and they want to protect themselves. And then Texans also want to be able to go and hunt, you know, during deer season or bird season. Those are two of the big things, that self-protection and then sport. But, you know, you've got the governor and the lieutenant governor and other Republicans in Congress, like Ted Cruz, who don't want to consider even popular measures. When something has 90% American support, that means there's a lot more people besides liberal Democrats who are in favor of it.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention one more thing? You mentioned Ted Cruz. Your Democratic colleague, Ruben Gallego, went on Twitter yesterday and referred to Ted Cruz of your state, Senator Ted Cruz, by saying, quote, "just to be clear, F-you, Ted Cruz, you F-ing baby killer." He spelled out the word. Would you approve of that statement, sir?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, look - I mean, it's strong language by Ruben. He's a Marine veteran. And I think he's expressing a lot of the frustration that Americans feel by seeing this over and over and over and politicians not doing anything about it.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

CASTRO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Joaquin Castro is a member of Congress representing the 20th District of Texas, in and around San Antonio. He joined us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.