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Dallas County commissioners urge Abbott to call special session on guns

Commissioners Theresa Daniel and J. J. Koch.
Bret Jaspers
Commissioners Theresa Daniel and J. J. Koch.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday passed a resolution asking Gov. Greg Abbott to bring the state Legislature back to Austin to work on new gun control bills, including universal background checks and raising the age to buy an assault rifle to 21.

“The only person in the State of Texas who can call a special session to address mass shootings to protect our children and residents is the Honorable Governor Greg Abbott,” the resolution read. It referred to the May 24 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults.

The measure passed unanimously. The lone Republican on the court, J. J. Koch, voted with the Democrats after making recommendations to modify some of the language.

“These are things that need to be discussed,” Koch said. “...What type of weapons should be available to an 18-year-old when we’ve continually seen how 18-year-olds do not need these weapons in their hands unless we’re doing agricultural work or other things.”

This adds to the chorus of people pushing Abbott to pass legislation in response to mass shootings in Texas and around the country. An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults on May 24 in an elementary school in Uvalde, a city west of San Antonio.

Other suggested topics for the special session in the resolution were red flag laws and strengthening mental health funding through expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Several commissioners acknowledged the need for more money devoted to mental health care – but there was consensus that the widespread availability of guns was a central problem.

“I am looking forward to our governor standing up and saying yes, we must address that and thus help local and state agencies provide the needed services,” said Commissioner Theresa Daniel. But she said that mental health needs “does not overshadow” a major factor in killings in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world: “the number of guns that are here.”

Koch said he didn’t see eye-to-eye with his colleagues on the entire resolution and raised the fact that most gun deaths occur “one or two at a time – and they’re happening in our community every day.”

Abbott has not indicated that he intends to call lawmakers into session. He’s asked for special legislative committees, although those can’t pass bills for Abbott to sign.

Political scientist Bob Stein said there are political reasons why Abbott would be reluctant to call a special session.

“I think the short answer is they do not want to bring attention to these terrible, terrible tragedies during the middle of an election campaign,” Stein told KHOU.

Abbott is running for a third term. He faces Democrat Beto O’Rourke in November.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.