This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — After 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school Tuesday, House Democrats say they will push to vote on a nationwide “red flag” law when they reconvene.
It’s also something Texas Democrats are talking about pushing at the state level.
Texas does not currently have a red flag law, which generally allows law enforcement or family to petition a judge to remove someone’s guns for a period of time if that person is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“Red Flag laws I think would be important to understand when someone sends a signal that they’re about to do something violent that we address that right away,” Texas Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-47), who is on the Homeland Security and Public Safety committee, said. Goodwin told KXAN she has requested for the committee to meet before the regular legislative session to once again address gun violence in Texas after a mass shooting.
Meanwhile, during a media briefing, which was interrupted by Democratic candidate for governor, Beto O’Rourke, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) responded to questions from reporters about calls for gun control with the following:
“There are, quote, ‘real gun laws’ in Chicago. There are, quote, ‘real gun laws’ in New York. There are, quote, ‘real gun laws’ in California,” Abbott said. “I hate to say this, but there are more people shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas. And, we need to realize that people who think, ‘maybe if we implement tougher gun laws, it’s going to solve it.’ Chicago and LA and New York disprove that thesis. And, so, if you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement.”
Sen. Ted Cruz echoed that sentiment, saying “we know what does prevent crime, which is going after felons and fugitives and those with serious mental illness. Arresting them. Prosecuting them when they try to illegally buy firearms.”
While still supporting the right to bear arms, some Republicans at the national level have been behind the push to encourage states to pass red flag laws, including Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL). They reintroduced an Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act last year that would have encouraged states to pass red flag laws utilizing federal grant funding. It’s not the first time Republicans from Florida have tried to get red flag legislation to the president’s desk after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland.
“Three years ago, 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland lost their lives and another 17 were injured,” Rubio said when putting that legislation forward last year. “We can never bring back those we lost and the pain is still raw, but we can — we must — work together to prevent future tragedies.”
Post-Parkland, Florida passes red flag legislation
After a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — where 17 people were killed and 17 others were injured — Florida lawmakers passed their version of a red flag law, called the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which allows police officers to petition for someone to have their guns removed for a period of time.
It’s something Rubio also brought forward on the national level in 2018, and has continued to reintroduce since.
“I think among the things that we can do after Parkland, one of the most effective is a gun violence restraining order,” Rubio said in 2018. “We’re putting out there a law to try to get all the other states in the country to do the same thing so you can find these people and you can take away their guns before they kill anybody.”
According to our NBC affiliate in Florida, that Florida red flag law has been used roughly 6,000 times since being implemented in 2018.
“We passed a law, and we’re four years later. And thank God nothing like this has happened again in Florida,” Republican Rep. Randy Fine told WESH. Lawmakers in Florida have called for an expansion of that law after the shooting in Texas this week, they reported.
Same year, different outcome
Texas also experienced a mass shooting at a high school in 2018. That was the year a teenager shot and killed 10 people at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.
Afterwards, Abbott released a nearly 50-page report containing dozens of recommendations on how to make schools safer: from funding prevention resources to requiring new preparedness programs.
- Read the 2018 recommendations here
Those recommendations included looking into a red flag law. KXAN reported in 2018, the then-leader of the Texas House, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said he had assigned the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to work on it ahead of the Jan. 2019 legislative session. Ultimately, nothing came of that, and Texas still does not have a red flag law.
Since 2018, Texas has seen several high-profile mass shootings, including one in El Paso, Texas, where 21-year-old Patrick Crusius shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart.
Half of America’s 10 most deadly shootings have happened in our state.
“I’m heartbroken and I hope that we can honestly tell families in Texas that you are safe. I hope that one day we can do that,” Rep. Goodwin said.