A UTSA political science expert has only seen Democrats file gun legislation so far. Some represent Uvalde, but their bills still lack bipartisan support.
AUSTIN, Texas — Just three days after the shooting at Robb Elementary School, Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters he expected new legislation would be passed to address any shortcoming that led to the tragedy.
Texas lawmakers were able to file bills for the upcoming legislation starting Monday. So far, only Democrats have put forward bills related to firearm safety.
Abbott was very specific about wanting new legislation after the tragedy.
“Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely, yes.” Abbott said. “There will be committees formed. There will be meetings held. There will be proposals that will be derived… many of which will lead to laws passed in the State of Texas. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: The status quo is unacceptable.”
Nine days after the shooting, Abbott sent a letter to Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan asking for a special committee to be convened to address “school safety and mass violence.”
“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,” the letter stated.
Jon Taylor, chair of UTSA’s Police Science Department, told KENS 5 he’s seen more than 30 bills filed so far, but none of them were authored by Republicans.
“There has been a push for expanded background checks, red flag laws, for raising the age to purchase for semi-automatic weapons, for restricting high capacity magazines and regulating handguns,” Taylor said.
The bills include HB 22, by Uvalde-area State Rep. Joe Moody, which would require retailers to report when a individual bought more than one gun or more than three extra detachable firearm magazines within five days. If the legislation passes, the retailer would need to send a report to the Department of Public Safety.
In Uvalde, the shooter purchased multiple assault rifles before the attack.
Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who also represents the Uvalde area, filed SB 145. It would require a person to be 21 before they could buy “any firearm, club or location-restricted knife.” The Uvalde shooter was only 18.
Taylor told KENS 5 neither of the bills are likely to get traction in the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
“I don’t know if any of these will get anywhere,” Taylor said. “Democrats are looking at the session hoping they can get something passed, hoping they can get Republican support. To be blunt, it’s going to be awful hard.”
Taylor said the fact that Abbott won reelection with an 11-point lead over Beto O’Rourke would suggest the governor doesn’t need to be concerned about the party’s future even if he doesn’t work with the Democratic party.
“The legislation is coming from the Democrats and, to be honest, given the nature of the state legislature and state government right now, the chance of the legislation making it to the house or senate floor is remote.”
Taylor also said the governor promised he would come up with a legislative agenda before the State of the State address, which is normally in February. But those measures could only address school safety and some school safety measures have already be created through the Texas Education Agency.
Yet another hurdle for state Democrats, Taylor said, was the election results for Uvalde County. The majority of the county voted for Abbott over O’Rourke, which can reinforce the governor’s claim that his policies are supported.
“It was a bit shocking. It definitely threw people,” Taylor said. “There seemed to be a bit of a discontinuity.”
Taylor said Abbott could, of course, still make firearm safety part of his 2023 agenda and Republican lawmakers still have plenty of time to file run-related legislation. At the same time, Taylor said, the NRA already came out against most of the measures introduced, and both Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have received support from the NRA in the past.
“Given Abbott and Patrick’s connection to the NRA and the contributions they got from them, you got to think that favor is going to be called in during the session,” Taylor said.
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