AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Families of victims and survivors of the Uvalde and Santa Fe school shootings traveled to the Texas Capitol again Tuesday, calling for changes to the state’s gun laws.
“They promised us Uvalde would not happen. They said they had fixed the problems. And when Uvalde happened, it broke us,” said Scot Rice, husband of one of a Sante Fe survivor.
A group of Democratic state senators, including one who represents Uvalde, are introduced what they call a “historic” package of bills that would modify how Texans can purchase and store firearms.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, is spearheading the bills, as part of his broader rollout of legislation that is directly in response to the Robb Elementary School shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
The rollout of these bills come a day after a mass shooting at Michigan State University and on the five-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, which claimed 17 lives.
In teary-eyed remarks, the sister of one of the two Uvalde teachers killed, Irma Garcia, plead to lawmakers to find common ground to make it more difficult to purchase firearms.
“How much death can America withhold before it passes common sense gun laws?” Velma Lisa Duran said.
“Not any of these things seek to take anyone’s guns away,” Gutierrez said. “We have to do the minimum here. It is important that the Republicans in this building understand that we have to do something to make it harder for this to happen.”
—Senate Bill 912 would expand safe storage requirements for firearms, requiring all firearms be properly secured, not just those deemed to be accessible to children.
—Senate Bill 914 would require identification to purchase ammunition and make it a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly sell ammunition to minors.
—Senate Bill 911 would create a statewide ammunition database, requiring sellers to report sales of ammunition that exceed 200 rounds in the database, with details about the purchase itself. It would also requires anyone seeking to buy 200 rounds or more of ammunition to undergo a background check prior to the completion of the sale.
—Senate Bill 913 would require firearm owners to maintain liability insurance for property damage, bodily injury, or death that occurs with their firearm, with exceptions for military members and peace officers while on duty.
With any bill that would restrict gun access, the Democrats are sure to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled legislature. Top GOP leaders in the state have consistently said in the aftermath of mass shootings that they do not want to restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, pointing to other problems like mental health care access and school safety measures.
Gutierrez has already introduced a bill that would raise the age required to purchase firearms in Texas from 18 to 21. In Uvalde, the gunman legally purchased the weapon and ammunition he used at the age of 18.
Gov. Greg Abbott has suggested that age limits are completely out of the question. He pointed to a Texas federal court decision related to a state law that previously banned 18 to 20-year-olds in Texas from carrying handguns. U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman said the law was unconstitutional, since the Second Amendment does not mention age limitations.
Last week, the Democrat brought three new announcements relating to school safety, funding mental healthcare, and remembering victims of mass gun violence.
Other school safety legislation filed Tuesday
A prominent Republican legislator introduced another bill Tuesday that he believes will help address some of the failures with the alert app used in Uvalde.
Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, is sponsoring a Senate counterpart to a House bill that would require Texas schools to have alert devices with technology that immediately notify EMS, law enforcement, and other first responders in the case of an emergency.
“I couldn’t imagine one of us that doesn’t put school safety at the top of the list for our priorities and what we’d like to see accomplished. Alyssa’s Law, at the top of the list, makes sure our schools are equipped with the technology that they need to make sure that adequate response is early,” Creighton said.
Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, first introduced the ‘panic button bill,’ which she believes will have a better chance of making it to the Governor’s desk this session with Republican support in the Senate. Her bill passed in the House in 2021 but died in the Senate.