AUSTIN — Parents of the children killed in the Uvalde school massacre traveled to Texas’s Capitol building Tuesday to urge one of the nation’s most gun-friendly legislatures to push through a slate of measures aimed at preventing another horrific shooting.
Uvalde parents push for laws to prevent future shootings in Texas
Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) has filed 10 bills and two budget appropriation requests, and has 11 more legislative proposals in the works, including one in response to an investigation from The Washington Post, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune aimed at improving the emergency medical response to mass killings — addressing everything including gun safety and protections shielding law enforcement from lawsuits.
Uvalde records reveal chaotic medical response as victims lost blood
“This is personal to me. These people have become my friends,” Gutierrez said, pointing to the parents of three slain students. Each wore buttons and shirts with pictures of their children. “These people deserve more than what they got.”
The Democrat is facing a reluctant body of lawmakers that has consistently loosened restrictions on guns after mass killings and set aside a fraction of the state’s billion-dollar surplus toward mental health and school safety in recent years.
From the day of the shooting, a loose coalition of Uvalde families has been at the forefront of a movement to hold officials accountable and push for gun-safety measures — such as raising the gun purchasing age from 18 to 21.
They’ve marched. They’ve told their stories. They’ve joined forces with national anti-gun violence groups. And they challenged congressional leaders who later passed the first bipartisan bill addressing gun violence in decades last fall.
And now, they are planning to become a regular presence in Austin to meet individually with lawmakers and tell and retell their story for as long as it takes, Gutierrez said. Tuesday’s appearance marked the second time in recent weeks families have gathered at the legislature to push for reform. The brutality of Uvalde’s suffering has lingered long in the national consciousness, giving them a chance to “create a moment,” the senator said.
Republican Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan urged his colleagues last month to honor the Robb Elementary school shooting victims through “sensible meaningful change,” but defining what that looks like will be up to one of the most conservative state legislatures in the country.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has signaled a willingness to talk, Gutierrez said, and he sees room for compromise on school safety and mental health. He and his Democratic colleagues have asked for $2 billion to increase mental health access in rural Texas and another $2 billion for school safety measures such as bulletproof windows. Another bill wants to put an extra state law enforcement officer on every Texas school campus.
At 10, Caitlyne Gonzales survived Uvalde’s school shooting. Then she became a voice for her slain friends.
Gutierrez said he is hoping to build bipartisan support for a bill to enhance rural emergency responder communications and training to better coordinate between various agencies during a mass casualty event.
“We have the money,” the senator said. “We can afford to do this.”
An investigation by The Post, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune found that communication lapses further hampered the already critical 77-minute law enforcement delay in reaching injured students and teacher.
Three victims who emerged from the school with a pulse later died. In the case of two of those victims, critical resources were not available when medics expected they would be, delaying hospital treatment for teacher Eva Mireles, 44, and student Xavier Lopez, 10, records show.
For the families left to grieve after mass violence in Texas, change should not come at the expense of new horror.
“We have been working tirelessly to change the culture of gun violence in Texas” by asking for reasonable things such as background checks and red flag laws, said Rhonda Hart, whose daughter Kimberly Vaughan was shot and killed at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
But Hart said she watched in disappointment as Texas lawmakers proposed everything short of gun measures. After a while, they stopped taking calls and meeting with parents, she said. Then six days after the fourth anniversary of her daughter’s slaying, families in Uvalde were met with their own hell.
“We stand together so that no other family in this godforsaken state has to do this,” she said.
Despite recent high-profile shootings, lawmakers who support gun rights in Texas continue to hold broad support. In Uvalde County, residents voted in favor of Gov. Greg Abbot (R) over his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in November. Gutierrez himself lost the county’s vote but won the overall midterm race. The father of one 9-year-old Robb Elementary victim ran as a write-in candidate for a local commissioner position but didn’t win.
As Gutierrez spoke Tuesday, the parents of several Uvalde families wept. One wore a shirt that read, “We’re not done.”
The senator said he is planning to unveil gun-specific bills in the coming weeks.
Source: Washington Post
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