PHARR, South Texas does, after all, want to play a role in shaping gun safety legislation in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting tragedy.

Up until now many cities in the region have been holding prayer vigils for the families of Uvalde. But none have passed resolutions urging their state or national lawmakers to get behind gun safety legislation. 

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio represents Uvalde.

Residents have been contributing financially to help the families of those killed or injured in the Uvalde massacre.

Now, all five state senators representing the border region say they want to have a seat at the table when gun safety legislation is debated.

The five – Cesar Blanco of El Paso, Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen, Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, and Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio – have signed on to a letter urging a special legislative session to address gun violence. Gutierrez represents Uvalde.

The five lawmakers are members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus. In a letter sent to Gov, Greg Abbott, the caucus calls for an emergency special session to be held to address gun violence. And, the caucus demands that the legislation includes these provisions:

  • * Raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21;
  • * Require universal background checks for all firearm sales;
  • * Implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others
  • * Require a “cooling off” period for the purchase of a firearm; and
  • * Regulate civilian ownership of high capacity magazines.

State Sen. Carol Alvarado of Houston chairs the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus. 

“We can’t wait for another tragedy to take action. Texas has the power to protect its people. It is time for state leaders to do so,” Alvarado said. 

According to law enforcement agencies, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother, and then opened fire on a school classroom where fourth-graders were taking a class. Ramos legally acquired an AR-15 style assault rifle.

The gunman’s rampage lasted for over an hour and police found as many as 1,657 rounds of ammunition and 60 magazines in his possession after he was shot dead,” the BBC reported. 

In their letter to Gov. Abbott, the Senate Democrats say “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” With Texas suffering with the highest number of mass shootings over the past decade, the members are calling for “common sense gun laws” They say the “time to take action is now.” 

Gov. Abbott says he has not ruled out calling an emergency special session.

Here is the letter from the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus:

May 28, 2022

Dear Governor Abbott:

The members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus urge you to immediately call an emergency special session to address gun violence in Texas in the wake of this latest gut-wrenching tragedy. We demand that this special session include passage of legislation that would:

  • Raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21;
  • Require universal background checks for all firearm sales;
  • Implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others
  • Require a “cooling off” period for the purchase of a firearm; and
  • Regulate civilian ownership of high capacity magazines.

Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade that any other state. In Sutherland Springs, 26 people died. At Santa Fe High School, ten people died. In El Paso, 23 people died at a Walmart. Seven people died in Midland-Odessa. After each of these mass killings, you have held press conferences and roundtables promising things would change. After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never rung more hollow. The time to take real action is now. 

“Thoughts and prayers” are not enough. Lamenting the fact that “evil” walks among us is not enough. Laying the blame at the feet of a broken mental health care system – that you and other state leaders continue to underfund severely – is not enough. We need evidence-based, common sense gun safety laws. Without a doubt, if at least some of the measures noted above had been passed since 2018, then many lives could have been saved.

We must address the physical and mental health of our nation, and confront the public health issue at hand – gun violence. Guns should not be easier to access than health insurance, baby formula, voting, books and enlisting in the military. We are not trying to take away Second Amendment rights. Instead, we are asking for reasonable laws or restrictions that will create a safer Texas for all of us. Taking action requires bravery. The proposed solutions are not new. We cannot wait for another tragedy to occur. Texas has the power to protect its people; it is time we do so.

We ask you, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan to step up and join us in passing common sense gun safety measures that are supported by a vast majority of Texans and could help keep a gun out of the hands of the next would-be mass shooter. 

Respectfully,

Carol Alvarado, Chair, Senate District 6

Nathan Johnson, Vice Chair, Senate District 16

Beverly Powell, Senate District 10

Borris Miles, Senate District 13

Sarah Eckhardt, Senate District 14

John Whitmire, Senate District 15

Roland Gutierrez, Senate District 19

Juan Hinojosa, Senate District 20

Judith Zaffirini, Senate District 21

Royce West, Senate District 23

Jose Melendez, Senate District 26

Eddie Lucio, Senate District 27

Cesar Blanco, Senate District 29 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Gov. Greg Abbott with other elected officials and law enforcement officers at a news conference in Uvalde, Texas.


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