KSAT asked state lawmakers if they want Abbott to call a special session and what needs to change in wake of Uvalde shooting

Both state lawmakers who represent Uvalde want Gov. Abbott to call a special session, as well as two more Republicans

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference at Uvalde High School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. On May 24, 21 people were killed, including 19 children, during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement. (Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images) (Jordan Vonderhaar, 2022 Getty Images)

While lawmakers may not agree on specifics, many said they believed something has to change after 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old with an assault rifle in Uvalde last week.

A growing chorus of state and local leaders has called for the minimum age for purchasing assault rifles to be raised from 18 to 21, including a handful of Republicans, as well as other measures. Others have focused on mental health funding and doors.

An even louder call has been made for Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to allow for debate and potential law changes in the wake of the shooting — from members of both parties.

So far, Abbott has balked at the idea and instead convened a special legislative committee that has no lawmaking authority. The Texas State Teachers Association called Abbott’s move “very weak.

So KSAT asked 19 state lawmakers in the San Antonio area whether they want Abbott to call a special session now, and what changes need to be made to prevent another tragedy like the one at Robb Elementary.

Both state lawmakers who represent Uvalde — state Rep. Tracy King and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, Democrats — said they want Gov. Abbott to call a special session.

At least two Republicans who responded to KSAT say they want Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session — state Rep. Lyle Larson and state Rep. Steve Allison, both representing parts of San Antonio’s North Side.

That doubles the number of state GOP lawmakers who’ve said they want a special session, adding to the list of Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach, of Fort Worth, and state Sen. Kel Seliger, of Amarillo.

Some lawmakers asked by KSAT have made their first public comments about what should change after Uvalde below.

All responses have been published in full without edits.

Of the 19 lawmakers prompted by KSAT, seven — all Republicans — did not respond despite three emails and phone calls over a four-day period this week.

Those include state Senators Dawn Buckingham, Donna Campbell and state Reps. Andrew Murr, John Lujan, John Keumpel, Ryan Guillen and Kyle Biedermann.


State Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde

1) Do you think Gov. Greg Abbott should immediately call a special session in response to the Uvalde school shooting? Why or why not?

Yes.

2) What specific laws need to be added, removed or modified to best prevent against another mass shooting in a public place, including schools?

I think all options should be on the table.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-Uvalde

1) Do you think Gov. Greg Abbott should immediately call a special session in response to the Uvalde school shooting? Why or why not?

Yes, the governor should immediately call a special session on gun safety. I signed the Senate Democratic Caucus letter calling for a special session.

2) What specific laws need to be added, removed or modified to best prevent against another mass shooting in a public place, including schools?

We need to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21; Require universal background checks; Implement “red flag” laws, among other items for common sense gun safety. This does not mean taking guns away from responsible gun owners. Reasonable gun solutions are needed now in our State and Country.”

State Rep. Steve Allison, R-San Antonio

“Yes, I am supportive of a special session but am suggesting that, first, a bipartisan select committee conduct immediate hearings to promptly forge a guide or recommendations for work of the special session. Without such, I have concerns as to the timely workings and productivity of any immediate special session.”

“I feel very strongly that we must assess and reassess everything impacting these senseless acts of violence and the resulting tragic loss of life. We passed very significant legislation in the 86th Legislature (the session before last), including provision for tightening school security and safety; threat assessments; a school marshal program of particular value to more rural areas but available to urban areas as well; firearm safety under DPS direction and training; mental health resources; character education; and more.

“We must use this tragedy to reassess and appropriately revise and improve each of these initiatives, including assuring they are followed through local efforts. I think this Uvalde act provides further support for the importance of on-site armed security.

“I am not supportive of arming teachers except for those who may choose to go through the school marshal program and are successfully trained, tested, and certified by that program but, otherwise, we should support local security policies, whether utilization of the school marshal program, trained resource officers, or trained district or other security forces.

“We also must address the firearm situation, including assessment and action regarding purchase or acquisition age requirements; waiting periods; definition and application of categories; adequacy of background checks; “red flag” indicators; the efficacy of “gun free zones”, as currently applied; and pertinent constitutional and other legality factors.

”It is long established law that an 18 year old may legally acquire a rifle but should any definition or application of “rifle” be more specific or limited? Should it include an assault-style rifle (or however characterized) such as that used by the shooter in Uvalde? Should the age requirement be extended to 21, as it is for a handgun? Should any exceptions apply, such as military training? Should the assault-type rifle ban be reinstated, in whole or in part? Should there be any exceptions, such as competition purposes? I believe we owe it to the innocent victims, families, and communities to fully assess and take necessary action on each of these points to do more to guard against any such future acts.

“I understand the views that one so intent on evil and doing harm to another is not concerned with any gun laws. We see clear evidence of this throughout our country but we can at least put in place, and follow, necessary guardrails to at least make it more difficult for any such evil intent and actions to take place or succeed. We must do all we can to safeguard against that evil “intent.”

“This is why, in my view, character education and mental health (in the broadest sense) initiatives and funding are so very important for assessment and reassessment in tandem with those matters included above to prevent further such tragedies in our schools and elsewhere.

“Hovering above all this is the overriding question and issue of why are these recurring acts occurring in recent years and, in addition to the above specific assessments and actions, what can we do through studies, programs, funding, or other efforts to address the issue? Guns and other weapons have been around for generations, so why these more recent horrendous acts? This societal factor requires our further focus.”

State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio

1) “Yes, Governor Abbott should call an immediate special session. The time to stop the next Uvalde was years ago. Before El Paso. Before Sutherland Springs. As we have seen, the longer we wait to address the issues, the less likely State leadership will be willing to address them.”

2) “The Texas Legislature needs to pass, and the Governor needs to sign into law, bills that would repeal constitutional carry, raise the age to purchase a long gun, including an assault rifle, to 21, require a “cooling off” for individuals after they purchase a firearm, require universal background checks, implement “red flag” laws, and close the gun show loophole which allows individuals to purchase a gun without a background check.”

State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-New Braunfels

No response.

State Rep. Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Campos, D-San Antonio

1) “Yes, Representative Campos urges Governor Abbott to immediately call an emergency special session to address gun violence in Texas. Common sense gun safety measures that are supported by a vast majority of Texans should be passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, IMMEDIATELY!!!”

2) “Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade than any other state. This past legislative session, close to FIFTY gun safety measures were introduced but none were seriously considered by the majority party. Instead, they passed legislation that allows people to carry guns in public without going through training or having to get permits. We must revisit and rescind that legislation. To prevent against another mass shooting, I will also support passage of legislation that would: Raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21; Require universal background checks for all firearm sales; Implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others; Require a “cooling off” period for the purchase of a firearm; and, Regulate civilian ownership of high capacity magazines.”

State Rep. Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio

1) “Yes, we should be called into a special session because we have the responsibility to address issues impacting the residents of Texas. The Uvalde tragedy can never happen again and we have the ability to help prevent it.”

2) “Increase age to 21 for the purchase of assault rifles and continue to add resources to mental health programs in the school system.”

State Rep. Barbara Gervin Hawkins, D-San Antonio

1) “I support the Governor calling a special session only if there is a sincere will for real gun sense legislation to pass. To have a special session just to appease the public will not be fair to the families that have lost loved ones. As leaders we need to take action to prevent any further loss of life. If that means going into a special session, then we should. We all know it’s going to take more than the Governor calling a Special Session to make a change on the current gun laws. The proposed gun sense legislation must pass in both the Senate and House Chambers, then the proposed legislation goes before the Governor for final approval and if he doesn’t veto it then it becomes law.”

2) I believe Texans have the right to own guns for hunting and protection of oneself, home, family, and property. Responsible gun owners and law abiding citizens won’t be negatively impacted by common sense gun legislation. To prevent further loss of life current gun laws need be modified, loopholes need to be closed and sensible gun policy is a must to protect the general public, which includes the following:

  • Eligibility minimum age of 21 years old.
  • A complete application process to include a background check and fingerprints.
  • Required training that focuses on proper gun usage, violence prevention, responsible gun ownership, proper gun storage and materials that promote gun safety.
  • License to carry required.
  • High capacity/weapons of war should be prohibited from ownership from the general public.
  • Signs of mental illness or instability is a prohibition against gun ownership.
  • Felons and individuals with multiple legal offenses should be prohibited from gun ownership.
  • Open carry should be prohibited in all public places.
  • Stolen guns should be reported to law enforcement.
  • Development of a gun tracking system that monitors stolen and transferred weapons.
  • Prohibitions should be placed on people convicted of domestic violence that removes ammunition from the home and restrict gun ownership.
  • Make resources available to support and encourage proper gun ownership.
  • Hold parents/guardians accountable for younger age children misuse of guns.
  • Embark on an extensive research project to identify the root cause of the various types of gun violence and develop community-based prevention programs.

State Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City

No response. A person who answered the phone at his office on Wednesday asked if any other Republicans had responded.

State Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin

No response.

State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio

1) “Yes on special session. Open to common sense on guns.

  • “Better training for local and state police on responses to mass shooting incidents
  • “State pay for architectural changes at existing schools and security.
  • “We secure the Capitol with heavy security and metal detectors... the kids in the schools are more valuable than we are.”

2) “All of the following gun-related issues need to be worked out between a bipartisan group at the federal and state level:

  • “Folks with Mental health issues and accessing guns should not be allowed.
  • “Background checks
  • “18 VS 21 age”

State Rep. Ray Lopez, D-San Antonio

1) “We absolutely need a special session. I doubt (Abbott) is going to call one. Abbott sent a letter Wednesday directing Patrick, Phelan to name committees to make recommendations in response to the Uvalde shooting.”

The problem with that is the committee has no legislative authority, they can only put together a report and send it to the governor and Legislature. There will be an inevitable delay.

If the intent is to get something done, a special session will be called. If the intent is to delay, diffuse and move on to the cycle, this is a good way to do it. As it has happened so many times before.

The topics he’s discussing are absolutely worth debate but that needs to be done in a special legislative session.

2) “In terms of what specific policies need to be debated and/or passed, go back to the last legislative session and look at the amendments (House Democrats) attempted to pass on the constitutional carry bill. Raising the age, ammunition and magazine limits, it’s all there. There were a plethora of proposals that were voted down largely along party lines.”

“I’m hopeful that we can get something done in Texas, but I think the best that any of us can hope for is at the federal level.

“There are a handful of state republicans that have privately said that they would be willing to reconsider and just as many said that the political consequences would be significant, particularly from the far-right voters.

“In Texas, the primaries are over but some have raised the concern with a special session in the middle of the Republican convention.

“There are some that would expect more draconian measures to be implemented like arming teachers and constitutional carry.

“They seem to think that the answer is more “good guys with guns” and that they can be trained.

“As an Army Veteran, I would remind them that targets don’t shoot back... Big difference.”

State Rep. John Lujan, R-San Antonio

No response.

State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio

1) Governor Abbott needs to call a special session immediately in response to the Uvalde shooting. The Legislature can take concrete steps to keep kids safe in the classroom, and many of my Democratic colleagues and I are prepared to act. Some Republicans and Democrats alike have called on the Governor to call a special session, suggesting some level of willingness to work on this issue. Now we must look to Gov. Abbott and to Republicans in the Legislature and ask, with openness and transparency, what reforms they are willing to pass to protect our kids.

2) Texas Democrats have offered reforms both expansive and narrow for years upon years. A good place to start would be some common sense reforms to keep people safe, such as closing background check loopholes, enacting red flag laws, regulating high-capacity magazines, and raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm.

State Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio

  1. “Yes. I believe Governor Abbott should immediately convene a special session in response to the Uvalde School Shooting. Over the past decade, Texas has experienced the highest number of school shootings in the country, and it is beyond time to take action and prevent our precious children from being killed in what should be the safest place outside their home.”
  2. “The Texas Legislature should take a multi-pronged approach preventing any future mass shooting, including:
  • Repealing H.B. 1927, the permitless carry bill passed during the 87th Legislature;
  • Aligning the age purchase firearms in Texas with the federal minimum age of 21;
  • Implementing universal background checks for gun buyers for all transactions;
  • Enacting extreme risk protection legislation, similar to Florida’s red flag law, that involves medical professionals and provides constitutional due process protections;
  • Banning large capacity magazines;
  • Funding public health research into evidence-based policies that increase safe storage and prevent gun violence and mass shootings; and
  • Increasing funding for evidence-based school safety measures to prevent gun violence in our public schools.”

State Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction

No response.

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels

No response.

State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio

1) “Yes myself along with the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus called for a special session in our letter to Governor Greg Abbott.”

2) “Myself along with the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus proposed five changes to the law in order to prevent another tragedy like that of what happened in Uvalde from happening again. See letter to Gov. Abbott.”

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway

No response.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo

1) “Yes. Last week the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus sent Governor Greg Abbott a letter requesting he convene the Legislature for a special session. We must immediately pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of persons who should not have them and simultaneously protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. This needs to be done before the start of a new school year so our children, parents and teachers can return to safe classrooms.”

2) “As Vice Chair of the Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, I developed recommendations based on testimony I heard from the El Paso, Midland-Oedessa and Sutherland Springs shootings. They included limiting the sale of guns and ammunition to minors, implementing red flag laws and narrowing the definition of private sales of firearms to increase the number of purchases subject to a background check. Strictest scrutiny should be paid to assault rifles or modifications like high-capacity magazines, as they can be used to kill more persons, more quickly.

“What’s more, Texas Senate Democrats are united behind legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, require universal background checks for all firearm sales, implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others, require a “cooling-off” period for purchasing a firearm and regulate civilian ownership of high-capacity magazines.

“Over the years I also filed six Senate bills to promote gun safety, but they died in their respective committees. They included creating tax credits and tax exemptions for firearm safety supplies; increasing the punishment for reckless discharge of a firearm in municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more; and prohibiting the possession of a firearm in parking lots, driveways, and other premises associated with a school.

“Although legislative support for many of our proposals is lacking, I remain optimistic that we can find consensus in this area. We need to focus on areas of agreement so we can make immediate progress. The goal should not be to take away the guns of law-abiding citizens, but, rather, to implement reasonable restrictions that save lives.”

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About the Author:

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.