On Saturday, families from Uvalde made the 2 1/2-hour trip to the state Capitol in Austin to ask Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to pass laws on gun reform.
The rally on the Capitol steps included a host of speakers like Maggie Mireles, whose sister Eva Mireles was one of the teachers killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary in May. The primary ask of Abbott: Raise the purchasing age of certain firearms from 18 to 21.
The odds of that occurring are unlikely not just due to political concerns leading up to the governor’s election in November, but also because gun reform in Texas has proved to be difficult in the first place. Just last week, a federal judge struck down a Texas law prohibiting adults under the age of 21 from carrying handguns in public.
Jeremy Wallace, a reporter with The Houston Chronicle who was at the Capitol on Saturday, joined the Texas Standard to talk about what happened.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit about what it was like at the Capitol on Saturday.
Jeremy Wallace: It was just absolutely heartbreaking and devastating to hear all of these families being able to tell the story of their children. This really all happened so recently. And you can feel the anger and the sadness wrapped up in these families trying to tell us what they lost that day. So it was very emotionally draining for, I think, everybody who was in that crowd and having to think about, you know, just how tragic this all was.
The folks who had gathered on the steps of the Capitol were asking the governor to call for a special session. Specifically, what were these families demanding?
Some of the families were saying, look, we want to get rid of all of these assault-type weapons. These shouldn’t be anywhere. But, you know, really what most of them have focused on, it’s like, “okay, we know we can’t get that from this Texas government, so let’s try to go for some sort of compromise.” And they repeatedly said, let’s just move the age from 18 to 21 to purchase some of these weapons like Florida has done, like California has done, like New York has done. Let’s follow that path. And so they were kind of looking to press that issue and make that the push here instead of doing an all-out ban on assault weapons, which they know is probably not likely to happen.
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With the Legislature not in session, I wonder whether those pleas are being heard. Of course, the governor is in Austin; have you heard anything from Gov. Abbott?
Well, Gov. Abbott was not in Austin on Saturday when this event was happening. He was down in Richmond, Texas, for some political events. And you’re right, you know, the Legislature is not in session and the governor so far hasn’t acted on this. It does not sound like this is something he wants to happen politically. He probably does not want the Legislature here. That would certainly bring a lot more politics into it; it’s not something he wants to do as he’s running for re-election. So there’s certainly a low threshold for his team wanting to go into a special session. So it’s unlikely we’re going to see something like that happen in these last few months before the election.
Pete Arredondo has taken a lot of heat for law enforcement’s response to the shooting and was relieved from his job as head of the Uvalde CISD Police Department last week. Did that come up at all?
More than one person kept bringing up how many officers were there and response and the speed that people did not respond. So that did come up quite a bit as part of it. From each family, it was different as a kind of explanation of what they were going through. For some, it was just like a heartbreaking tale of the last time they saw their child. For others, it was anger at the law enforcement that didn’t do anything or anger at the state government for not doing more. And certainly there was a lot of anger at the shooter who did all this to begin with. And so you just had all of that kind of mixed into this event. And like I said, it was just a very heartbreaking, difficult situation to kind of put yourself in the place where these parents were trying to get through.