Gov. Greg Abbott calls for legislative hearing on mass shootings, excludes gun control as solution
AUSTIN, Texas - Following the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called on state lawmakers in a letter to find solutions to prevent future massacres.
In the letter, Abbott details a list of areas to focus on for potential solutions to the problem of mass shootings but gun control was left out.
"As Texans mourn the tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week, we as a State must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence. As leaders, we must come together at this time to provide solutions to protect all Texans," Abbott said.
In the letter sent to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan asking for Texas lawmakers to gather for a special session to find solutions to the ongoing epidemic of mass shootings, the list of potential talking points included:
- School safety
- Mental health
- Social media
- Police training
- Firearm safety
"I hereby request that each of you convene a special legislative committee. I request that these committees review what steps previous legislatures have enacted, what resources the State has made available to local school districts, and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive Branch so that meaningful action can be made on, among other things, the following topics to prevent future school shootings," Abbott wrote.
In contrast, the Democrat-run state of New York is poised to ban people under 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle.
The change to state firearm laws is being pushed through less than three weeks after an 18-year-old used one of the guns to kill 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo. New York already requires people to be 21 to possess a handgun. Younger people would still be allowed to have other types of rifles and shotguns. The bill would also require anyone buying a semiautomatic rifle to get a license.
Republicans still hold their ground on gun control
While most Republican leaders have expressed their opposition to introducing new gun control measures in the wake of a series of deadly mass shootings, including the ones in Uvalde and Buffalo which occurred in the span of less than two weeks, Democratic leaders have moved swiftly to put their stamp on gun legislation.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Thursday on a bill that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. The bill would also make it a federal offense to manufacture or possess large-capacity magazines, and would create a grant program to buy back such magazines. With Republicans mostly opposed, the Senate is unlikely to take up the bill, but senators from both parties are working privately on separate legislation they hope can succeed.
The Democratic legislation, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was quickly added to the legislative docket after last week's school shooting in Uvalde. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised in a letter to Democratic colleagues Thursday that the House will vote on the measure next week, and she promised other votes in the weeks ahead, including on a bill to to create an AMBER Alert-style notification during a mass shooting. Pelosi also pledged a hearing on a bill banning military-style semiautomatic rifles.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, said no one wants another tragedy. But he insisted the House bill would do nothing to stop mass shootings.
"We need to get serious about understanding why this keeps happening. Democrats are always fixated on curtailing the rights of law-abiding citizens rather than trying to understand why this evil happens," Jordan said. "Until we figure out the why, we will always mourn losses without facing the problem. Our job is to figure out the why."
Arming teachers, the solution?
Meanwhile, other GOP lawmakers insist on arming employees who work on school grounds to fend off potential school shooters.
Ohio school districts could begin arming employees as soon as this fall under legislation approved by Republican lawmakers and set to be signed by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine.
Democrats said the proposal, which is optional for schools, sends the wrong message a week after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Republicans say the measure could prevent such shootings. Lawmakers fast-tracked the legislation to counter the impact of a court ruling that said, under current law, armed school workers would need hundreds of hours of training.
The bill will protect children by ensuring instruction is specific to schools and including significant scenario-based training, DeWine said late Wednesday in announcing his support.
The measure is opposed by major law enforcement groups, gun control advocates, and the state's teachers' unions, which asked DeWine to veto the measure. It's supported by a handful of police departments and school districts.
Under the latest version of the bill, school employees who carry guns would need up to 24 hours of initial training, then up to eight hours of requalification training annually.
DeWine, who is expected to sign the bill later this month, also announced that the state's construction budget will provide $100 million for school security upgrades in schools and $5 million for upgrades at colleges.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.