AUSTIN -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the online ads paid for by his campaign committee inviting gun-owning New Yorkers to move to Texas are part brag, part dig at new gun regulations signed by Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"Texans always like to talk about how great our state is," Abbott explained. "And what Governor Cuomo in New York did is to just give us another opportunity to distinguish Texas from New York and explain to the entire country why Texas is better than New York."
Abbott said except for a few concerned with the prospect of more New Yorkers moving to Texas, he's received generally positive response over the tongue-in-cheek campaign.
In the wake of the tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, Abbott has made his stance on gun control clear. He believes crackdowns on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and beefed-up background checks are wrong answers to mass shootings like the one in Newtown.
"It is heart wrenching for any parent to think about losing a child under any circumstance, especially at the hands of a gunman in school," said Abbott. "But at the same time it's sad and disturbing that some politicians will seize upon a tragedy like this and try to exploit it for their own political gain and for their own political agenda. And that's precisely what some politicians are doing right now."
"Remember one of the worst mass shootings we've had at schools was Columbine. Columbine took place during the time period where we had the assault weapons ban in place," said Abbott.
The weapons used in the 1999 shooting in which 15 people died including the perpetrators included two 12-gauge shotguns and one 9mm semi-automatic handgun with three high-capacity magazines. The weapon that fired the most shots was a Hi-Point 995 Carbine, a 9mm semi-automatic rifle equipped to accept 10-round magazines and designed comply with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban lasting from 1994 to 2004.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced a series of proposals and initiatives in response to mass shootings which focused largely on gun laws.
The plans include requiring background checks on all gun sales, requesting the reinstatement of the the assault weapons ban included a 10-round limit on magazines, increasing school mental health services and providing funding for research on the effects of media violence as well as more armed police on school campuses.
Should gun laws be a part of the conversation at all?
"Gun laws are a constitutionally protected right. Most people who really understand what is going on right now realize that there are other issues at play that really need to be addressed," Abbott said.
Abott argues the first issue is the role of the family.
"First and foremost, you have to have better parental involvement in the lives of their children," said Abbott. "Second is the violence that youth see in video games where they can randomly shoot anybody, anytime, as well as in the movies. I am pleased that the president did include some spending to try to begin to study that. The third is we need to do a better job of addressing our mental health issues in this country."
"By bringing up the issue and bringing families into the issue, that is a step in the right direction. By working on ratcheting down the violence in video games and movies, that's a step in the right direction. By collectively working on mental health in our state and country, that's a step in the right direction," he said.
"Any person who goes into an elementary school and randomly guns down twenty kids, that person has mental health issues by definition," Abbott said. "We need to address those mental health issues because until we do, we can't strive to achieve a safer society."
A number of Texas lawmakers have submitted proposals regarding teachers with concealed handgun permits.
One suggestion outlined by Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst would require CHL holding teachers whose districts allow them to carry under current law to undergo additional training paid for by the state. Abbott suggested such training would help better prepare teachers and could potentially ease some parents' concerns over armed teachers.
"The president offered up maybe guards at schools, greater armed security at schools," Abbott said. "The Texas approach would be one avenue of doing that without using as much taxpayer dollars. The reality is there is a lot of people in the State of Texas who have a concealed handgun license. Some of these people would be teachers, and the question you have to ask is: Why do we disarm these teachers when they go onto campus when in reality they may be able to provide some safety for their children?"
Teachers' groups have unanimously voiced opposition to any laws that would arm teachers. One of the most commonly raised questions by those who support reinstating the assault weapons ban is whether there is a practical purpose for allowing citizens to own military-style weaponry.
"When you start limiting rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution, there has to be a reason to limit those rights," said Abbott. "And there is no proven case where limitation of those rights would've been effective at preventing Columbine, would've been effective at preventing what happened in Connecticut, would've done anything other than guarantee people like the cartels the ability to go out and shoot people while limiting other people's right to bear arms."
The New York ads have furthered speculation regarding Abbott's next political step. With $18 million in his campaign account, a source recently told sister station WFAA, Abbott assured major donors he plans to run for governor in 2014.
"My focus has been and remains solely on serving the people of the State of Texas, working through the session. We're putting all talk of politics aside until we get to June, after the session," Abbott responded when asked if the report was accurate.
Would he refrain from running if Governor Perry announced plans for reelection?
"Both he and I have set that topic aside," said Abbott. "The good news is that Governor Perry and I are good friends, close allies and we're working on a single goal, and that is to keep Texas the very best state in the nation."
There will be plenty of speculation until then.