Texas

Will the Texas Legislature pass meaningful gun reform after the Uvalda mass shooting?

Almost eight months have passed since the shooting at Robb’s elementary school in Uvalde.

But for the families of the victims, the pain is still fresh.

“It was a struggle, it was very difficult,” said Velma Lisa Duran, sister of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed on May 24.

That feeling was heightened after lawmakers arrived in Austin last week to open the 88th session of the Texas Legislature, which runs through May 29.

“Knowing that they just got back and knowing that we have until May to reassure people that the weapons are safe is incredibly funny,” Duran said. “I don’t understand their thinking.”

Texas Legislature returns for the first time since an armed teenager entered Robb Elementary School and fired a semi-automatic rifle..

In the aftermath of the shooting, Duran and family members of other victims urged lawmakers to consider a range of bills they say could help prevent the next mass shooting.

But history shows it’s unlikely that Texas Republicans will add any new gun restrictions.

Among the proposals that Duran is promoting are the implementation of “red flag laws”, increased background checks on gun owners, and raising the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio State, is carrying some of those bills this year.

“We can do better in this space, and we deserve more, not just for these families, but for all of Texas and for the safety of every child in Texas,” Gutiérrez told The Texas Newsroom. “We have to make it difficult for these young people to access these types of weapons.”

Gutierrez, whose county includes Uvalde, said he is working to convince part of the Republican majority to support his legislation.

However, there are other bills that may be more attractive to GOP lawmakers.

One proposed bill would allow Texas teachers to be armed in schools. The proposal is being championed by the Gun Owners of America, a Second Amendment organization.

“We look at Uvalde, we look at what happened there – and I’m not trying to judge law enforcement or anything like that – but in those first three or four minutes when the shooter started shooting, no one came up to protect these children,” said Wes Wirdell, Texas director of America’s Gun Owners.

It took law enforcement more than an hour to confront the shooter in Uvalde.

Texas already have a program in place, allowing school districts to arm teachers. But the bill Wirdell is pushing would allow licensed teachers to carry a handgun on campus without school district approval.

Given the Texas legislature’s track record, such a bill is likely to pass in this session. Historically, gun control bills introduced in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Texas have come to nothing.

Senator Cesar Blanco of El Paso knows this all too well. In 2019, a white supremacist killed 23 people at a Walmart in his area.

“Texans are reaching out to their leaders and want lawmakers to provide answers and solutions — and we have those solutions,” Blanco said.

Following the shooting in El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott organized a roundtable to discuss responses.

recommendations from the group included banning the purchase of straw firearms under state law and finding ways to make it easier and more affordable for the private seller to use voluntary background checks.

When lawmakers met in 2021, nothing happened with those recommendations. In fact, legislators actually Removed some weapon restrictions during this legislative session.

“As someone who has seen my hometown and my neighborhood experience such an untold tragedy, this further strengthens the will to fight for common sense gun reform,” Blanco told The Texas Newsroom.

This year, it is still too early to tell which gun-related bills will gain support.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said last week that he is listening to the Uvalde community.

“In memory of these students and teachers, we have an obligation to make reasonable and meaningful changes,” Phelan said in his first speech since being elected Speaker for a second term. “It’s going to be a particularly tough conversation, but this body has proven in the past to be able to make those kinds of conversations.”

But some changes seem unlikely. According to Austin, American statesmanPhelan told reporters that the decision to raise the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic rifle does not have votes to pass in his chamber.

This infuriates Duran, the sister of the murdered teacher Irma Garcia.

“Every politician who refuses to protect us from this weak gun policy needs to be put in a room and they all need to watch the video of what happened on May 24 – I want it to stay in their heads,” Duran said. “I couldn’t see my sister when we had to lay her down, they picked her up piece by piece. And this image will forever remain in my head, so I must continue to fight for her.

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