President Joe Biden said Monday in Uvalde, Texas that he will try to make good on calls to do something to curb gun violence in the United States, especially in schools. Lawmakers in Texas are asking Gov. Greg Abbott to do the same.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez represents District 19, which covers large parts of southwest Texas including Uvalde. He told Texas Standard that he will continue to press the governor and his colleagues in the Legislature to act on gun violence prevention measures he says members of both parties
Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: At a press conference last week with Governor Abbott, you asked him to call a special session to talk about mass shootings in schools and gun laws in Texas. Have you heard back from him?
Sen. Roland Gutierrez: Well, no. The answer is quite simply no. Today marks 76 days before school starts in Texas. So every day we’re going to be counting down. It isn’t a challenge, and it’s not a game. It’s a demand that we get back in there to solve some problems. I don’t expect that these Republicans in Austin are going to do much, but they can do some minimal things that we can all agree on: raising the minimum age [for purchasing assault weapons] to 21 just like it is for handguns. It’s a simple solution Republican constituents are in favor of. Simple solution: red flag [laws] or magazine capacity limits. Certainly this notion that I’ve been talking about – a waiting period might even eliminate the need for red flags. They say they have concerns about red flags. Let’s have a waiting period where we create a Texas sized [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ATF. Republicans have no problem spending money along the border. We should be able to create an agency, either through [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] TABC and add the firearms component, where there is a 10-day waiting period for you to get an assault rifle and you have to be interviewed by one of these agents. All of these things could happen, but you have to have the political will to do so. You have to be able to tell the NRA, you can keep your money. I don’t care. I’ve got to save children’s lives. That’s what this is about.
Have you spoken with any of your colleagues on the other side of the aisle, just had a heart-to-heart and said, ‘look, we’ve got to come together on this stuff.’
So you’ve seen Jeff Leach call for a special in the House, in the Senate, Kel Seliger [has called for a special session.] Of course, Kel’s retiring. One of my colleagues who shall remain nameless at this time – she asked me to not to now quote her on this – she says, ‘look, you know, maybe this 21 [years of age requirement] thing makes sense.’ And, you think it does for sure. But they it they have difficulty getting there.
Listen, if all I get to do for the rest of my tenure in the Capitol is to shame people, then I’m going to do it. This is beyond reproach. It is high, high, high time. I don’t want any of my colleagues to ever have to go through this madness again. it’s hard. I mean, these poor families are simply devastated. This is a community that is wrecked and will never be the same again. Never.
Do you have a sense that something’s kind of changed? And I wonder if that’s your sense that after years and years and years of talking about doing something about mental health issues, but not gun safety per se. Has a switch been tripped here? Or are we back to where we’ve always been in the aftermath of mass shootings in Texas?
Shooting after shooting, we get nothing from the governor but mental health and evil as possible solutions. The only evil here is having a problem facing you straight in the face and not doing anything about it. This one, I’ve seen nothing different. He’s come down a couple of times. He’s said very little. If I was the governor of the state of Texas, I’d come down with my pocketbook and say, ‘what do you need?’ And that hasn’t happened. He gives more money to this border security, and steals money from agencies like he did four weeks ago. And yet he can’t give a few million dollars to this community to have mental health. He can’t call the attorney general’s office and say, I want you to maximize victims’ assistance programs right now.
That is what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with a governor who’s feckless – who says all the nice things in the beginning. And then he quietly hides under his desk while the news media goes away and things die down and we get back to normal.
Does it feel different to me? I’m in the heart of it, in the heat of it, and I’ve got to believe and I’ve got to be able to do whatever my part is to yell, to scream, to cry, because I just cannot stop crying. To do something about this, because no one should go through what these people are going through.
I see all of these memorials around town in Uvalde, every day. I go home at night – at 1 in the morning, I leave my home at 6, 7 in the morning every day. I haven’t taken a day off. I’m not going to take a day off until the children are put to rest. And I’m going to go to the governor’s office. I’m going to put these beautiful babies in front of his office so he can remember them every day. I dare him to take them down. They should be on the steps of the Capitol. We should have a memorial for these deaths on the Capitol grounds. These are the kinds of things that need to happen so that these things never happen again. We are living in some strange, strange world that I’m having a hard time comprehending much anymore. And it’s just not right. It isn’t right.