State of Texas: Looking beyond guns

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting, Texas politicians and advocacy groups are pushing policy proposals that would limit open carry laws, as well as legislation to make sure individuals implicated in domestic violence incidents do not have access to guns.

Nicole Golden, group leader of the Austin chapter of Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke Wednesday at a Capitol news conference with Democratic lawmakers. She asked for support of Senate Bill 15.39 that was presented to the U.S. Senate subcommittee in May. Also known as the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, the bill would bar convicted stalkers and domestic abusers from buying or possessing firearms.

“The majority of mass shootings, over 54 percent, are related to domestic or family violence while 34 percent of mass shooters are legally prohibited from having guns,” Golden said. “[This] is legislative action we can take today to limit access to guns by convicted domestic abusers and stalkers.”

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, has also proposed a law to confiscate guns from individuals once they have been convicted of domestic abuse or stalking charges.

Devin Kelley, the shooter behind the deadliest mass shooting in Texas, had a history of violent behavior. He spent 12 months in a military prison for assaulting his then-wife and stepson which led to a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2010.

But the House members at Wednesday’s news conference repeatedly said they are not pushing legislation to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.“I’ve got a lot of guns and no one’s coming to take my guns. I can guarantee you that,” said  Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevarez, vice chair of the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety. He proposed measures to limit the ability of Texans to openly carry certain kinds of rifles. “…we have this oddity in Texas where you can walk around fully locked and loaded with a long rifle, an AR-15,” Nevarez said. 

C.J. Grisham, president and founder of Open Carry Texas, counters that politicians should instead focus on enforcing existing laws.

“First of all, we just need to enforce our laws. That’s the problem,” Grisham told KXAN in an interview on Wednesday after the conference. “There is a law on the books right now that if you’ve been convicted then you lose your guns, period. There’s no reason to retroactively do anything. We don’t need more laws. We’ve got laws. We need to enforce them.”

Grisham, a supporter of open carry, says the focus should be on implementing a system or law similar to the Patriot Act that forces criminal databases like the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to share information with one another to prevent individuals like Kelley from acquiring weapons at the federal level despite being denied by the state of Texas.

Additionally, Grisham contends that we need to be looking into what is driving individuals to commit mass shootings.

“We are completely missing the point here. Instead of focusing on a piece of metal, focus on the individual,” Grisham said. “It would seem to me that there’s — in society — we have come to a place where life is meaningless. I think part of it is this partisan divide that we’ve got in this country.”

He continued that the widening political divide has led to a loss of a sense of community, creating an atmosphere where people simply no longer like each other and don’t value other’s lives.

“And, here we are shooting each other up for no reason,” Grisham said.

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