Texas

After a bumbling response to the Uvalde shooting, the Texas senator wants to streamline legal action against law enforcement.

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State Sen. Roland Gutierrezwho represents Uwalde, said Tuesday he is leading legislation making it easier for the families of victims of the Robb elementary school shooting to sue the state and police over a failed law enforcement response.

The San Antonio Democrat and other Democratic senators are introducing four new pieces of legislation to improve gun safety and law enforcement accountability. The news came during a press conference where they were accompanied by the families of several victims.

“We are not asking for the moon and stars. We ask for decisions based on common sense,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez filed Senate Bill 575 end qualified immunity for police officers, a judicial doctrine that shields government officials from liability for violations of the constitution. In recent years, this doctrine has received nationwide attention because it is commonly used to protect law enforcement officials from prosecution in cases of excessive use of force. He said ending qualified immunity would make it easier for the families of the victims of the Uvalde shooting to recover from the misguided law enforcement response to the Uvalde school shooting, in which hundreds of officers attacked the school but did not confront the shooter for more than an hour.

Attached to this bill Senate Parallel Resolution 12which he co-wrote with other Democratic senators, which “empowers” the families of the victims of the Uvalda shooting to sue the state and its agencies.

“I support law enforcement 100%, but under no circumstances should they [allowed] what happened that day,” Gutierrez said. “They let these kids down for 77 minutes due to a lack of leadership – under no circumstances should they be allowed to leave and not compensate people. There is no such amount of money that will return their children. But there must be justice, so today is about justice.”

The Texas Rangers’ criminal investigation into the Uvalde school shooting is over. still going on. Christina Mitchell, district attorney for Uvalde, said earlier in January that she did not expect to receive a final report for several more months.

Black legislators in the Texas Legislature previously tried to repeal the qualified immunity law in 2021 as part of radical reform proposal after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. An effort failed.

In addition, Gutierrez and other Democrats are seeking to set up a compensation fund for victims of school violence, beyond school shootings, through Senate Bill 574. The money will come from a new firearms and ammunition retail tax in Texas, they said.

Democratic Senators also propose Senate Parallel Resolution 11 calling for Congress to repeal the Lawful Gun Trade Protection Act, which would allow families to sue gun manufacturers for their advertising practices.

Gutiérrez had previously filed three Uvalde-related bills back in November, the first day lawmakers could introduce a bill for the 2023 session.

Among them, Senate Bill 144 proposes the creation of “extreme risk protection orders” to keep weapons away from those who pose a danger to others and to themselves. Senate Bill 146 will create a $300 million compensation fund for shooting victims that will pay $7,700,000 per victim to their next of kin or family members. It will also pay $2,100,000 for each survivor with serious bodily injury and $250,000 for those with a mental or emotional disability.

In particular, Senate Bill 145 proposes to raise the minimum age for buying or renting firearms from 18 to 21, a key proposal that pushed for family members of victims and Texas Democrats. The gunman involved in the Uvalde shooting was only 18 years old when he bought two AR-15 rifles, which he later used in the massacre.

The move is doomed to fail without the support of leading Republicans. Governor last year Greg Abbott repeatedly stated that raising the age limit to 21 for the acquisition of assault rifles would be “unconstitutional” in connection with recent court decisions. Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dade PhelanR-Beaumont, also voiced opposition to the idea at the 2022 Texas Tribune festival and repeated earlier this month that the House probably doesn’t have the votes to support him.

“I just know, given that I can count the votes, and I told the families in Uvalde very frankly: “I don’t want to mislead you. I just want to tell you that this is where the votes in the Texas House are,” Phelan said Jan. 12.

But family members of the victims who attended Tuesday’s press conference reiterated the need for greater gun control in the state.

“The age limit should be raised to 21 because it’s unbelievable to separate families,” said Felicia Martinez, mother of Xavier Lopez, the student who died in the shooting.

“Holidays should be filled with love, joy and happiness. Instead, I was filled with emptiness. It was our first Christmas when my husband and I didn’t babysit and open presents. Instead, we are locked in our room, crying, full of pain and anger, because the person who was the loudest during Christmas is no longer here.”

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