After last week’s massacre in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers, there are calls for a special session of the Texas legislature to consider how to prevent the next mass shooting in the Lone Star State — something legislators on both sides of the aisle say they support.
Republican State Senators Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Jeff Leach (R-Plano) both tweeted Friday their support for a special session. Seliger said legislators should reconvene, “until we do something the FBI or DPS believe will lessen the chance of the next Uvalde tragedy.” Leach said bringing lawmakers back to Austin was something, “Texans expect and deserve this and time demands it.”
On that same day, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) interrupted Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s news conference Friday urging him to call the lawmakers back to Austin to begin working on the issue.
Abbott did address the calls for a special session but didn’t say whether or not one would be called.
“With regards to a special session, lets me just say this, and that is, first of all, all options are on the table,” said Abbott on Friday.
GOV. ABBOTT EXPECTS NEW LAWS TO COME FROM UVALDE MASSACRE
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week said he expected new laws to be written following the massacre in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers, but that more must be learned about the shooting before that can be done.
The governor said they will look at laws passed after the May 2018 Santa Fe shooting “to find out the extent to which those laws were complied with” and identify any shortcomings. The governor added they would also be looking at laws that could make schools safer and improve mental health care in the state.
The governor said in a news conference Friday that recent gun laws passed in 2021 were not relevant in the Uvalde massacre.
In the last legislative session in 2021, Texas Republicans who control the state House, Senate and governor’s office passed 22 new gun bills, almost all aimed at easing, not strengthening, gun restrictions in the state. One of the laws signed by Abbott allows almost anyone to openly carry a gun without training or a permit. Constitutional carry, as conservatives call it, went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.
“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws that I signed this past session, had any intersection with this crime at all. No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun, the gun that he did get. And so, again, there was nothing about the laws from this past session that has any relevancy to the crime that occurred here,” Abbott said.
The governor was expected to appear at the NRA Convention in Houston on Friday, but late Thursday night said he’d only appear via video message so that he could remain in Uvalde. In that video message, Abbott said laws restricting gun access don’t work.
“There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped mad men from carrying out evil acts on innocent people and peaceful communities,” Abbott said.
Abbott, who as governor is the only one who can call a special session or set the agenda, has not said whether he intends to call one or wait for the next legislative session in January 2023. He did say, however, that the legislature will be tackling the issue. Whether that happens before the start of the 2022-23 school year is at the governor’s discretion.
“The status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. We’re not going to be here and talking about it and do nothing about it,” Abbott said. “We will be looking for the best laws that we can get passed to make our communities and schools safer.”
TEXAS DEMOCRATS PUSH TO REFORM GUN LAWS
The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is also calling for a special session and has laid out several key items they’d like to focus on around reforming gun laws.
They said they want to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, require universal background checks, implement ‘red flag’ laws that allow a judge to temporarily remove firearms from people considered a threat, and implement a ‘cooling off’ period for the purchase of firearms and regulate high-capacity magazines for firearms.
Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-District 19) represents Uvalde and said the shooting will be the catalyst for his work in the state legislature moving forward.
“We have to make sure that this never happens again because you and I both know there’s probably going to be one of these instances happening again in this state and others. We have to learn from this for sure,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
Gutierrez, whose District 19 covers Uvalde, wants the special session to include gun reform laws.
“These Republicans are out of touch on this issue. I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away. We need restrictions on assault rifles, we need wait times,” said Gutierrez.
Guiterrez and the other Democratic state senators sent a letter to the governor asking for the special session.
“You can’t just blame it on mental health. We have a problem with guns. We have a problem with gun culture in this state,” said State Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas).
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke confronted the governor at a briefing last week to say the governor didn’t do enough after Santa Fe and that the time to prevent the next school shooting was now.
“If we continue to accept this then it is on us. It’s not just the governor’s fault. It is on us. I’m not going to accept it. So I’m here. I’m calling attention to this,” O’Rourke said Wednesday.
SOME REPUBLICANS WANT TO WAIT BEFORE MEETING
Some Texas Republicans aren’t in a rush to gather in Austin and instead want to see the investigation into the school shooting completed before any lew legislation is considered.
“Right now the best thing to do outside of grieving with the families is to let the investigation process play out,” said State Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall).
State Sen. Bob Hall (R-Rockwall) wants to see what investigators find.
“If we are going to do something we need to know what happened and determine whether or not we can fix that with a law. I’m one of those that does not believe we can fix everything in this country by passing another law,” said Hall.
A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll in 2021 found that 57% of Texans oppose the constitutional carry law passed last year. In the same poll, 71% of voters showed support for requiring criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases.
Last week, in Washington, D.C., the Democrats’ first attempt at responding to the back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde failed in the Senate Thursday as Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on difficult questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism