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State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, said his the exclusion of a special legislative committee designed to make legislative recommendations in response to the Uvalde shooting was a “slap in the face” for people in that community.
“I consider this a slap in the face for the people of Uvalde,” Gutierrez said, who has been one of the most vocal Democratic lawmakers on the need for gun safety measures since the school shooting last week. “They didn’t have their rep there.”
Gutierrez also said the selection of committee members was an affront to residents of El Paso and Santa Fe, two communities rocked by mass shootings in 2019, who also won’t have their state senators on board. of the committee. Committee members are appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican whom Gutierrez has criticized in the past.
Patrick did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Gutierrez said the two had a 90-minute phone call during which Patrick expressed concern that Gutierrez was “politicizing” the issue.
“This issue is political,” said Gutierrez, who is pushing to raise the age for buying guns from 18 to 21 and for a waiting period to complete the purchase. “I am a public decision maker. And we have to find a political answer.”
The three the committee leaders Patrick chooses are conservative Republican allies who, like Patrick, are unlikely to accept legislative recommendations to restrict access to guns.
The committee will be chaired by Senator Bob Nichols, R-Jacksonville. The senses. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe who leads the Senate Education and Higher Education Committee, and Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham who leads the Health and Human Services Committee, will serve as co-vice chairs.
“These three leaders have the experience and knowledge to lead this important committee,” Patrick said in a statement announcing the members. “Committee members also represent a cross-section of school districts and communities of all sizes across the state.”
The select committee is made up of eight Republicans and three Democrats, including McAllen’s Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa; Royce West of Dallas, whose city saw a mass shooting of police officers by a gunman in 2016; and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, whose district includes Sutherland Springs, where a gunman killed 26 people at a church in 2017.
The special committee was requested by Governor Greg Abbott, who also asked House Speaker Dade Phelan for committees in this chamber to study school safety, mental health, social media, police training and gun safety. In public statements since the shooting, Abbott has mostly shut the door on the possibility of gun control, signaling that the Legislature will likely focus on mental health and school safety.
Gutierrez also criticized Abbott for week, saying lawmakers had already considered those issues after mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa in 2019 and after a school shooting in Santa Fe, southeast of Houston, in 2018.
Roundtables after the Santa Fe shootings led to legislation that pushed for more legislative funding to address mental health and an increase in armed teachers and police in schools, but no meaningful action to gun safety. The committees following the El Paso and Midland-Odessa shootings halted their work during COVID-19 and never completed their meetings or issued legislative recommendations. In the ensuing legislative session, lawmakers instead focused on relaxing gun laws, including allowing Texans to carry handguns in public without a license or training.
“We’ve seen this Greg Abbott show before,” Gutierrez said. “The same roundtables he did after Sutherland Springs, the same recommendations he made after El Paso, and the same concerns that came up after Santa Fe. We’ve seen the show over and over again.”
Gutierrez interrupted one of Abbott’s Uvalde press conferences last week to ask him to recall lawmakers for a special session on gun violence, said Abbott again ‘refused to do the right thing’ and instead sought to “miss the time”. until the public pressure wears off. Gutierrez again called for a special session, noting that Republican Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano also called for a special session.
On Saturday, Texas Senate Democrats called on Abbott to call a special session to address gun violence and pushed for policies like raising the gun purchase age, universal verification a track record for all firearm sales, “red flag” laws, a waiting period for purchasing a firearm, and a ban on large capacity magazines.
El Paso Sen. César Blanco, a Democrat, was also kicked out of the special committee to address gun violence, as was Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who represents Santa Fe. Both Gutierrez and Blanco are senators from first year who joined the chamber in 2021 after years in the chamber. Taylor is an outgoing 10-year veteran of the chamber.
Blanco was a leading voice in the fight against the mass shootings in his hometown. During the last legislative session, he sponsored several bills drawn directly from Abbott’s recommendations to address gun violence after the El Paso shootings, but only a few minor bills made it through the Assembly legislative.