A bipartisan group of mayors from 13 major cities across Texas is calling on state leaders to convene a special legislative session to address mass shootings, most notably calling for certain gun reforms.
In a publicly signed statement from Texas’ Big City Mayors, they say they “cannot sit idly by” until the next mass shooting. The group is urging that a special session take up five specific points: raising the age for purchasing weapons such as AR-15s; implementing universal background checks and red flag laws; increased funding to address mental health in their communities; and increased training and resources for school safety officers.
Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, a former member of the Arlington SWAT team and a Marine, joined Texas Standard to share more about what he and the other mayors are requesting from state leadership. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What kinds of policy options are you and other city leaders across the state urging lawmakers to take up?
Jim Ross: We’ve signed the joint letter that just says simply that, for one, we think there needs to be a new state law that says you have to be at least 21 to buy an assault weapon. We believe in red flag laws. We believe in some funding to help with mental health issues. We just want some of the common-sense approaches to help stifle some of these mass shootings that are going on all around the country, all around our state.
What about training for school safety officers? In light of all that we are now hearing and reporting on what actually unfolded in Uvalde, what are you thinking when you hear details about law enforcement’s response? I know that you’re a former member of the City of Arlington SWAT team and a former Marine.
Well, it breaks my heart to hear some of the reports I’ve heard on the news. Now, I hate to comment about stuff that I’ve just heard on the news because I don’t have any firsthand knowledge. But if, in fact, we have officers outside a room where shooting is going on and they’re fully equipped and ready to go in, it breaks my heart to think they did not go in. I just couldn’t fathom standing out there listening to the gunshots.
If Texans are being urged to accept that more training is needed, and yet Uvalde CISD police and city police both had undertaken active shooter training, do you think that there’s an issue with a sense of trust, whether or not people believe that’s going to be sufficient?
I don’t know it comes down to the trust about the sufficiency of it. But we have to participate in the things that are going to help us make the right decisions. And if you look at the Uvalde situation, I don’t know that these officers didn’t want to go in, but my understanding is they were ordered not to at some point in time.
So an issue of leadership, is what you’re saying?
Yeah, if that’s the case, the training has to go all the way up the chain of command.
Would you say that these changes reflect a common sentiment among law enforcement officials in Texas, not just the big city mayors signing on here, that they want to see these gun reforms?
I was a cop. My son is a cop. I am still very close friends with cops all over this state. I know no cop that doesn’t support these types of reforms. And all the studies show the vast majority of the citizens in the state of Texas – and the country, for that matter – support these types of reforms.