87th LegislatureGunsIssuesStatewide NewsTexas Senate Democrats Ask Abbott for Special Session to Enact Gun Control, Including ‘Red Flag’ Laws

Democrats have called for additional restrictions on firearms after the shooting deaths of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde.
May 31, 2022
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In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Senate Democrats urged him to call a special session of the Texas legislature to enact gun control measures after an 18-year-old male killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week.

Gov. Greg Abbott seemed open to the possibility at a news conference last week, saying “all options are on the table.” However, he did not explicitly say whether he was seriously considering calling a session.

The signers of the letter include Sens. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), John Whitmire (D-Houston), Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Royce West (D-Dallas), Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Borris Miles (D-Houston), Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin), Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), and Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso).

“Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade than any other state. In Sutherland Springs, 26 people died. At Santa Fe High School, 10 people died. In El Paso, 23 people died at a Walmart. Seven people died in Midland-Odessa,” the senators wrote on Saturday.

“After each of these mass killings, you have held press conferences and roundtables promising things would change. After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never rung more hollow. The time to take real actions is now.”

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Foreshadowing the letter, Gutierrez reportedly interrupted Abbott’s news conference in Uvalde on Friday to ask the governor to engage with their request for a special session.

“My colleagues are asking for a special session. You’re getting a letter tomorrow. We’ve asked for gun control changes. I’m asking you now to bring us back in three weeks,” the state senator reportedly said.

Specifically, the letter called for the following reforms:

  • Increasing to 21 the minimum age to purchase a firearm.
  • Mandating “universal background checks” for all weapons purchases.
  • Enacting what is often called “red flag” laws that give the government power to remove weapons from ostensibly dangerous or suicidal people.
  • Implementing a “cooling off period” for the sale of firearms.
  • “Regulate civilian ownership of high capacity magazines.”

Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) joined Democrats in urging Abbott to call lawmakers to Austin.

“Texas Lawmakers have work to do. Conversations to engage in. Deliberations & debates to have. Important decisions to make,” Leach tweeted. “And the best way to do our jobs openly, publicly & transparently is in a [Texas legislature] special session. Texans expect & deserve this & the time demands it.”

Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) also backed a special session to “do SOMETHING The FBI or [Texas Department of Public Safety] BELIEVE will lessen the chance of the next Uvalde Tragedy.”

Among his rebuttals against increased gun control, Abbott contended that the Uvalde gunman violated a slew of laws and that one more restriction would not have prevented the school shooting.

It is already illegal to possess a firearm on school grounds, and the murderer passed background checks when he bought two rifles in March.

The Democratic senators contended in their letter that they are not seeking “to take away Second Amendment rights.”

“Instead, we are asking for reasonable laws or restrictions that will create a safer Texas for all of us,” they wrote.

Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee challenging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also highlighted his support for more gun control in a social media post.

“For 8 years, Dan Patrick has worked ardently to block even the slightest suggestion of common-sense gun laws in Texas,” Collier wrote. “The problem in Texas is Dan Patrick.”

Abbott, Patrick, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) withdrew plans to attend the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston last week.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did attend the convention, where he argued against gun control measures and pointed to violence in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. as evidence that strict restrictions on weapons are ineffective.

The senator suggested that school shootings are a “mirror” that reflect deeper cultural problems that ought to be examined.

“It’s a lot easier to moralize about guns and to shriek about those you disagree with politically,” Cruz said.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Sunday that it will conduct an inquiry into the response by local police to the school shooting.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."