AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week on State of Texas: lawmakers discuss “red flag” laws and mental health as part of ongoing school safety hearings, a University of Texas pollster examines how Texans feel about the root cause of school shootings and a new look at the significance of the Wendy Davis abortion filibuster, five years later.
House lawmakers consider “red flag” law
With the Santa Fe shooting still fresh in the minds of Texans, House members held a new round of school safety hearings.
On Monday, members started looking at whether Texas should have a “red flag” law. That law would allow family, law enforcement and school officials to request a protective order from a judge to temporarily take guns away from persons deemed “potentially dangerous.”
The idea has lawmakers trying to strike a balance between preventing mass shootings and respecting the right to bear arms. Many gun rights activists oppose the proposal, which they perceive as a violation of their Second Amendment rights.
CJ Grisham, the president of Open Carry Texas, attended the hearing at the Capitol, with a handgun visible in a holster on his hip. He criticized the proposal, saying it could hurt the rights of law-abiding gun owners. “You never get good policy when you base it off of emotion,” Grisham said.
Probate Judge Guy Herman, however, feels that temporary interventions could stop further violence. “I don’t want to see another Santa Fe happen again,” Herman said. “There was info out that if it had been given to the right people, maybe we could have stopped that.”
Red flag laws aren’t the only safety measures on the table. Mental health has also become a major topic of discussion in the efforts to prevent more school shootings.
A group of high school students spoke Thursday before a joint hearing of the House Public Health and Public Education committees. They told lawmakers that mental health resources at school are scarce and hard to access.
High schooler Zoe Nanson explains, “Even if we were comfortable going and talking to that counselor, she’s one of those people that is overrun with other tasks to do. She’s either doing the buses or in the lunch line or various things like that.”
Texans divided over causes of school shootings
Jim Henson of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas recently published a series of polls examining the opinions of registered Texas voters. The topics of the polls ranged from school safety to marijuana legalization to the midterm elections.
One poll asked voters to rank what they believe are the main causes of school shootings and found little agreement there. The most popular selection was “poor parenting” and even that only received 19 percent of the response.
Henson says the poll shows a party line divide. Democrats cited “insufficient restrictions” as the top cause, while Republicans focused on poor parenting.
In a rare moment of agreement, another poll showed a significant shift towards supporting marijuana legalization on both sides of the political aisle. Only 16 percent said possession of marijuana should remain illegal under any circumstances.
The poll also looked at the support for candidates in the November election.
In the Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, Cruz holds a five-point lead. That’s smaller than many people expected, but Henson emphasized that it’s challenging to draw conclusions from polls this far out from the election.
“This is a poll of registered voters. We don’t know what a likely voter is right now,” Henson explained. Many of those who responded to the poll said that they have no opinion on the races.
13 Hours to Midnight: The Wendy Davis filibuster five years later
It’s been five years since Wendy Davis mounted a 13-hour filibuster to block an anti-abortion bill in the Texas Senate.
Her success was short-lived, as lawmakers passed the bill a few weeks later in a special session. The event still stirs passionate memories for Texans on both sides of the abortion debate.
Journalists at the Texas Tribune produced a new documentary taking a closer look at that night.
Alana Rocha, the reporter on the project, says the way the night is remembered is largely defined by party lines. Republican David Dewhurst, then lieutenant governor, remembers the night as an example of “democracy perverted by mob rule.”
Democrats, however, see the night as a prime example of democracy in action. Davis herself commented that the day is still remembered not for the end result, but for inspiring women to take action.
“The special session was called and the bill did pass into law. Even in that perceived failure, we gained something so much more powerful,” Davis said in the documentary. “Young women around the country tell me why that moment changed their lives. And that’s really what matters. In fighting, we moved the needle.”