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There’s no one magic solution to solving gun violence, State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) said Wednesday. But he said there are a lot of things the Texas Legislature can try: refining “red flag” laws, requiring universal background checks for gun purchases, eliminating the loophole that allows Texans to buy guns through private sales without a record.
“All of those things are worthwhile,” he said.
Nine local lawmakers stood together Wednesday at San Antonio College to announce the Texas House Democratic Caucus’ demand to Gov. Greg Abbott for a special session addressing gun violence. The San Antonio news conference was one of a series across the state on the same day.
The news conference came less than a week after the Midland-Odessa shooting on Saturday, when a gunman killed seven and injured at least 22 before being shot and killed by police. According to news reports, the gunman purchased the assault-style weapon in a private sale after failing a previous background check.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) said that, like his fellow Democratic legislators, he senses reticence from Republican leadership to do anything beyond discuss the problem of gun violence and mass shootings. Everything keeps getting put off until “mañana,” he said.
“The slowest day and longest day of the Texas Legislature is mañana, because we never get to the issues of tomorrow,” he said. “Mañana did not help the women and children of El Paso. Mañana did not help the families of Odessa and Midland.”
Abbott said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that he will announce legislative considerations next week and executive action this week.
“Legislators can be part of the process or part of the problem,” Abbott tweeted.
Also Wednesday, Speaker Dennis Bonnen appointed 13 state representatives to the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety. State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) is one of the committee members.
“We cannot be a do-nothing statehouse,” Gervin-Hawkins said Wednesday. “We’re ready.
“Common sense measures don’t need to happen over time. We need to make them happen now. We stand unified to make those things happen.”
Bonnen said that the newly appointed committee members have an important task ahead of them.
“The Texas House is putting words into action by forming this committee, and it will be well-served by the range of backgrounds, skill sets, and expertise these particular members provide,” Bonnen said in a prepared statement.
Bonnen charged the committee to look at how to strengthen enforcement of current laws that prevent felons and other individuals from owning firearms, the challenges of reporting relevant criminal and threat information in a timely manner, and how digital media and technology can help prevent mass violence. Committee members also will look at “current protocols and extreme risk indicators used to identify potential threats” and consider the state’s needs in regards to cybersecurity, mental health, and law enforcement staff.
The committee has 90 days to submit a preliminary assessment to the speaker’s office. It must also give the speaker’s office update reports and submit a final report.
State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) said the committee is not enough of a response to address gun violence.
“I, myself, will not be part of another committee that sits behind closed doors and does nothing,” he said. “I will be part of the legislative process.”
Gutierrez added that Republican leaders will have to answer to voters in 2020 if they refuse to take action beyond talking about the problem.
“If we don’t try to do something, then what are we doing here?” he asked.