Several Texas lawmakers met last week in Midland-Odessa and El Paso as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s initiative to prevent mass violence. They met to come up with legislation that could help curb mass shootings.
There have been four mass shootings in Texas over the past two years, two of which were over the summer, in West Texas, when 29 people died. José Rodríguez, a Democrat from El Paso, is one of the lawmakers on the Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, and says the group has had three meetings so far, with another scheduled for Oct. 30 in Austin.
“We’ve been hearing a lot from victims of the various shootings, as well as first responders, law enforcement, the mayors of both cities,” Rodríguez says.
The group has heard public input about various kinds of gun legislation. Some want more regulation, including so-called red flag laws that would restrict access to guns for individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Rodríguez says some have also advocated for background checks; current law allows individuals to sell guns to private buyers without screening them.
“We’ve covered the gamut of potential different types of gun legislation,” Rodríguez says.
The group has also heard calls for more mental health services; advocates argue that those who commit gun violence could be having problems with their mental health. But Rodríguez says medical experts say focusing on mental health can lead to stigmatizing those with mental illness, who usually don’t pose threats of violence.
“They’re more likely to be victims of crimes with guns, rather than shooters,” he says.
He says new legislation is likely to come out of the committee meetings. But what it will entail, and whether it will become law, is unclear, he says. The most likely change, Rodríguez says, would be for private gun sales. Abbott has proposed a voluntary background check system for those sales, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he supports a mandatory background check system for private gun buyers.
“I think that one is ripe for consensus,” Rodríguez says.
But he says lawmakers shouldn’t wait for the 2021 legislative session to take action. He has called on Gov. Abbott to call a special session of the Texas Legislature in the meantime.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.