SAN ANTONIO - Democrats in the Texas House are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special legislative session to address gun violence — a move designed to place even more pressure on the state's top GOP official to act in the wake of two deadly mass shootings just weeks apart.
A letter to Abbott was delivered Wednesday morning, hours before the House Democratic Caucus was scheduled to host five news conferences across the state to discuss "protecting Texans from gun violence." The letter, which also included several gun-related legislative proposals, was signed by 61 of the 66 members in the caucus.
"Members of the House Democratic Caucus, for several sessions now, have proposed dozens of specific bills aimed at changing the status quo by making Texans safer through common-sense gun and public safety legislation," the letter reads.
The caucus requested Abbott include issues such as "closing the background check loopholes" and "banning the sale of high-capacity magazines" in a special session agenda, along with "enacting extreme risk protective order laws and closing existing loopholes in current protective order laws," "limiting the open carry of certain semi-automatic long guns" and "requiring stolen guns be reported to law enforcement."
The Legislature does not convene again until 2021; Abbott has the sole authority to call both chambers back to the Capitol before then.
Over Labor Day weekend, a gunman on a rampage through Odessa and Midland killed seven people and injured 22 others. The tragedy there happened four weeks after a deadly shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead and more than two dozen wounded.
Abbott formed two entities — the Domestic Terrorism Task Force and the Texas Safety Commission — in response to the El Paso shooting. He also resisted a stream of calls from a smaller number of Democrats for a special session, though he hasn't weighed in since the Odessa-Midland shooting over the weekend.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced they had formed interim select committees to study "mass violence prevention and community safety." The committees, the two GOP leaders said, will be tasked with studying and eventually recommending legislative solutions.
Abbott applauded the formation of the committees later Tuesday evening, saying both were, along with the task force and safety commission, "vital to our ongoing efforts to respond to these recent tragedies and protect innocent life."
John Wittman, with Gov. Abbott's Office, sent KSAT the following statement:
"Governor Abbott made clear in Odessa that all strategies are on the table that will lead to laws that make Texans safer. But that doesn't include a helter skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines. Instead, the Governor seeks consensus rather than division. The Democrats who are part of today's partisan pitch can be part of the bi-partisan legislative process announced yesterday that is geared toward achieving real solutions, or they can be part of politics as usual that will accomplish nothing. Legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time. If Democrats really want to change the law, they need to stop talking to cameras and start talking to colleagues in the Capitol to reach consensus."
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