Democrats embark on full-court pressure campaign to address gun violence

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On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers across Texas renewed calls for Gov. Greg Abbott to call an emergency special session to address gun violence.

“[Abbott] drives the agenda of the legislature, he drives the agenda of the entire state, he could easily help put his weight on reform,” state Rep. Gene Wu told reporters at a Houston press conference at City Hall, one of five held by Democratic lawmakers in various cities to pressure the governor.

So far, 61 out of the 66 Democratic lawmakers in the Texas House have called on Abbott for a special session and have highlighted five policies they believe could curb gun violence if enacted. They include “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, universal background checks, a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines, limiting the open carry of certain semi-automatic guns, and requiring stolen guns to be reported to law enforcement.  

The goal, they say, is to protect Texans from gun violence.

In Saturday’s mass shooting in Odessa that left seven dead and at least 25 injured, the shooter acquired his firearm via a private sale without a background check. The shooter had previously failed a background check, according to Abbott. Weeks earlier, a white nationalist killed 22 people in El Paso.

On Wednesday morning, asked by KXAN to comment on calls for a special session, a spokesperson for Abbott said the governor believed “legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time” and chastised Democrats for taking “a helter skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines.”

But Democrats are reflecting the will of the majority of Texans. The Texas Democratic Party ticked off polling from the Texas Tribune/ University of Texas that clearly shows the public wants comprehensive universal background checks and red flag laws.

If the Governor refuses to call a special session, lawmakers will have to wait until the 2021 legislative session to begin passing bills to address the ongoing rash of mass shootings. 

“If we wait until the next legislative session, imagine how many more people will have died,” said Rep. Mary González of El Paso. “When our culture is changing in ways that are harmful and dangerous, we have to start taking action now.” 

Photo: Fernando Ramirez/The Texas Signal

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