With 180 gun bills in the Texas legislature, groups hope for common ground

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Reaching common ground on common-sense gun laws is what Texas Gun Sense and lawmakers who joined them in the Texas Capitol Tuesday morning hope to achieve this legislative session.

Three Austin representatives — Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin), Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) — and Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) stood and spoke alongside members of the nonprofit that says it advocates for “common-sense, evidence-based policies to reduce gun injuries and deaths.”

Texas legislature tackles gun rules

This session is sporting over 180 bills related to guns. The advocacy group deems over 30 of those as “key good bills;” 10 are from the Senate and over 20 are from the House. The list ranges from a variety of topics including “safe storage” to disarming domestic abusers.

Some of the bills Texas Gun Sense touts on its list as “good” are among those on the National Rifle Association’s list of bills it says restrict Second Amendment rights. That non-profit, which advocates for the right to own firearms, opposes two of Dallas Democrat Rep. Rafael Anchia’s bills that made it on the Texas Gun Sense list: HB 1163, which lets municipalities set their own open carry regulations; and HB 1169 which would not allow someone to sell a firearm at a gun show without using a licensed dealer.

The Texas State Rifle Association Political Action Committee, which similarly advocates for the right to own guns, also has a list of bills it supports in this legislative session. One overlap between it and Texas Gun Sense’s list are a series of bills (SB 203, SB 61 and HB 1445) that would eliminate taxes on firearm safety materials.

Focus on awareness and school safety

Rep. Howard filed House Bill 316, which will be heard Wednesday. It relates to a public awareness campaign on firearm safety and suicide prevention.

“We have an alarming number of accidental, preventable deaths as a result of access to improperly stored firearms,” she said, adding that 3,200 Texans died from such instances including 114 children.

She believes she is not alone and touts bipartisan support. Those across-the-aisle discussions are something Texas Gun Sense hopes happens more this session.

“I think there are better conversations …in hearings among folks who think differently,” said Gyl Switzer, Executive Director of Texas Gun Sense.

The press conference kicks off Texas Gun Sense Advocacy Day and speakers discussed gun violence prevention after recent Texas massacres at a high school in Santa Fe and a church in Sutherland Springs — two cases in which many were killed.

School security is among some of the top priorities in the state legislature this session after the May 2018 shooting at a high school in Santa Fe and the November 2017 shooting at a Sutherland Springs church— two cases in which many were killed.

“Texans are realizing that this happens here, not just in other states. I think the atmosphere is better this session than it has been,” says Frances Schenkkan, co-founder of Texas Gun Sense. Schenkkan feels no one seems to be arguing about “the rights to carry.” She believes legislators can now “get into the weeds and really talk about some measures we can all agree on.”

Gun rights advocates say they also believe in security but believe preserving and expanding Second Amendment rights is the best way to do that. A bill filed in Texas Senate would give all Texans the right to bear firearms in church. The City of Austin was also recently forced to allow guns at City Hall after a district court judge ruled that the city was violating state “open carry” laws.

KXAN Digital Journalist Tulsi Kamath contributed to this article.

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