Mayors from across Texas call for special session on guns, school safety and mental health
The bipartisan coalition of city leaders said at least two of the state’s recent tragedies – in Uvalde and El Paso – could have been prevented if some of the changes they’re advocating for were already in place.
Mayors from some of the state’s largest municipalities urged Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday to call a special session on gun reform, mental health and school safety.
The wish list from Texas’ Big City Mayors — a bipartisan group of 16 mayors that includes leaders from Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio — specifically calls for lawmakers to raise the age to buy assault-style weapons to 21, universal background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws to identify people who should not be allowed to buy guns, and more resources for mental health programs.
“All our communities have supported our local law enforcement during these difficult times of civil unrest and pandemic-related violence. Pursuing gun policies that ease access to firearms makes the jobs of our first responders even more difficult,” the group wrote. “Families are asking us how many more shootings must happen before we act.”
The coalition’s urging comes as the Texas House and Senate are holding hearings on the police response to last month’s school shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two schoolteachers dead. The mayors invoked that tragedy and the August 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart in their pleas for action. The El Paso shooting claimed 23 lives and the alleged gunman in that case sought to ward off a Hispanic “invasion” of Texas, authorities have said.
“These reforms, supported by most Texans, would have prevented the shooters in El Paso and Uvalde from obtaining their weapons,” the mayors wrote.
In the days after the shooting in Uvalde, Abbott said “all options are on the table” when asked about a special session, which only he can call. Critics pointed out that he used similar language after other mass shootings, including at Santa Fe high school in 2018 when 10 people were killed and the El Paso shooting. There was no special session called however and Abbott instead convened roundtable discussions and instructed members to come up with ideas for lawmakers to consider. Less than a month after the El Paso shooting, a gunman killed seven people in a shooting spree in Odessa.
Though municipal elections in Texas are non-partisan, some of the mayors included in the request have been associated with or identify as members of the Republican Party. The state’s GOP has been critical of any proposed legislation that would expand background checks or raise the age to purchase an assault-style weapon.
The sentiment was on full display last week when U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was booed and heckled during his speech at the Texas Republican Party convention in Houston. Cornyn has been a leader in bipartisan discussions in Washington, D.C. aimed at providing a framework on gun and mental health legislation.
Cornyn has been forced to defend his participation and has reiterated that he is not proposing or in favor of new gun restrictions. The U.S. Senate framework does not include raising the age limit for gun purchases, universal background checks or banning assault-style weapons.
“These are ideas we rejected in the bipartisan agreement on principles for gun-related legislation announced yesterday,” Cornyn tweeted. “Why? Because we knew that if they were included, the bill would not command the votes needed for passage.”
Much of the ire directed at Cornyn was due to the “red flag” provision in the proposal, which are designed to keep weapons out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
The Texas’ Big City Mayors group notes that advocacy efforts on behalf of the group are “based on the decisions of a majority of participating mayors and may not reflect the views of all.”
The mayors that signed on to the call for a special session include: Ginger Nelson (Amarillo); Jim Ross (Arlington); Steve Adler (Austin); Paulette Guajardo (Corpus Christi); Eric Johnson (Dallas); Oscar Leeser (El Paso); Mattie Parker (Fort Worth); Ron Jensen (Grand Prairie); Sylvester Turner (Houston); Pete Saenz (Laredo); John Muns (Plano); Ron Nirenberg (San Antonio); and Sugar Joe Zimmerman (Sugar Land).
Members of the group who did not sign on include mayors Scott LeMay (Garland); Rick Stopfer (Irving); and Tray Payne (Lubbock).
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