Bernie Phillip is a 75-year-old Texas grandfather who owns nearly 20 guns ― enough, he says, “to take care of business.” He’s an avid hunter, and has been a National Rifle Association member for 46 years.
But this week, for the first time in his life, Phillip broke with the gun-rights group. He wrote to his state representative urging him to oppose two bills that would loosen restrictions on guns. HB 375 would allow Texans to carry a gun without a permit or license, and HB 560 get rid of gun-free zones, including schools, for people with a license to carry.
“I’m all for our 2nd Amendment rights but these two bills are downright irresponsible,” Phillip wrote in the letter, which has since gone viral on the internet. “I pride myself on gun safety and being a responsible gun owner. Neither of these bills further the cause of making our great state safer for my 5-year-old granddaughter. The thought of another parent being able to carry a gun in my granddaughter’s school when she goes to kindergarten next year is terrifying. There’s just no need for that.”
”It’s insane, no doubt about it,” Phillip said in an interview. “It’s mind-boggling they could come up with laws like that.”
Phillip said he’s discussed the legislation with his hunting buddies, also NRA members. “They’ve said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s ridiculous,’” he said.
Phillip’s daughter, Tricia Gronnevik, who said she was raised to respect gun rights, next week will go to Austin to lobby against the bills with Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, a gun-safety advocacy group. Phillip won’t travel with her because of physical limitation, but asked his daughter to hand-deliver his letter to his state representative.
“Back when he joined the NRA, it was more of a gun-safety, sportsman organization, and so my dad still has that mentality,” Gronnevik said. “He doesn’t go online, he doesn’t even have an email address.
“After seeing everything I’ve been doing in my community and learning more of the facts behind these issues and the facts that more guns aren’t making us safer, I think really he showed how out of touch the NRA leadership is with its members. He’s an example of the longtime NRA members who are being left behind by these extremist gun policies.”
Since her father’s letter spread on social media, Gronnevik said she’s heard from hundreds of gun owners who agree.
“I think that it gives a lot of hope for Texas, because people think that Texas is just like this lost cause and there’s no sense here and I’m an example of the generational shift,” Gronnevik said.