After another school shooting in Texas, this time in Santa Fe, calls for action have come from various places along the political spectrum. Some believe that beefed-up school security is the answer, while others advocate gun regulation. Texas lawmakers are talking about how to move forward, including Republican Jason Villalba, a member of the Texas House from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus.
Villalba agrees with Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a roundtable to discuss the problem of school shootings, and believes a legislative special session is warranted.
“I think [the roundtable] is an excellent first step,” Villalba says. “I called for a blue-ribbon commission back in November that’s comprised the same way that the governor is comprising his new roundtable.”
Villalba says the group should look for the root causes of school shootings before the state takes action. He says that school shootings in Santa Fe, as well as Parkland, Florida, along with last year’s Sutherland Springs church shooting, represent a significant uptick in gun violence.
“We’re seeing an exponential increase in this kind of activity,” Villalba says, “which I think is making it clear that these activities are going to continue, and unless we address them with bold, decisive action, we are going to see an exponential increase in these kinds of attacks.”
Villalba says the governor’s roundtable should meet within the next few weeks, and that a special session of the legislature is warranted.
“I do believe it is critically important that the governor call us into special session to address this very serious problem before the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.”
Turner says House Democrats welcome discussions of how to address mass shootings.
“What’s important is that those discussions be substantive and are open to real reforms and substantive policy changes that make a difference and save lives,” Turner says. “Hopefully, that’s the governor’s agenda as well.”
Such discussions should include “mental health, school security, and the accessibility of firearms to people who shouldn’t have them,” he says.
Turner says state education budget cuts have limited schools’ ability to take measures needed to keep students safe.
“We know that we have a shortage of counselors,” he says. “We know that we have a shortage of mental health services for the entire state, including our public schools.”
Turner says he wants to see Republicans consider reforms to laws related to the accessibility of firearms.
“Until Republicans are willing to take on the NRA and say that ‘we’re going to pass laws that you might not like but that we think are in the best interests of protecting our citizens’ then it’s going to be hard to move forward,” Turner says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.