Cameron County leaders are calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to call an emergency special session to address mass shootings.
County commissioners on Tuesday voted to lend support to a letter by the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus that urges Abbott to order legislators to Austin in the wake of the mass shooting at an Uvalde elementary school.
An 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle entered Robb Elementary School on May 24 in Uvalde, where he shot and killed 19 children between the ages of 9 and 10 and two teachers.
Before the commission voted on the letter, each member expressed concern about mass shootings in the state and nation.
“This is not a political issue. There have been more mass shootings than days in the year,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said. “I will hope that our leadership in Austin and Washington will put the lives of the children of this country as yet most priority to protect because that is what we owe them. When our children go to school in the morning, the least the United States of America can do is guarantee that they will come home that afternoon to their parents and their families.”
The Democratic Caucus wants the special session to include passage of legislation that raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, require a universal background check for all firearms sales, implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others, requiring a “cooling off” period for the purchase of a firearm and regulate civilian ownership of high-capacity magazines.
The item was placed on the agenda by Precinct 3 Commissioner David Garza who said he anticipated receiving backlash from some of his family members.
“I can already hear my own kids calling me out on me putting this item on the agenda, but that is their problem,” Garza said. “The thought of my grandchild, who I have some of the same age group that were lost in Uvalde, being able to be lost for a senseless killing because an individual that needed help is very evident, mentally that he needed mental help that this state does not provide for is not an excuse for them to be allowed to purchase a gun.”
Garza said he supported the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution and he owns weapons, supports the use of guns, and believes people should have the ability to purchase weapons. However, he also supports implementing changes that could prevent some “major, major problems in our society,” he said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia C. Benavides said: “Our voice needs to get very, very loud to our legislators who have the power to change this. I don’t know what AR -5s or whatever they are…why would a child, an 18-year-old, why would they have any reason to use that?”
The Democratic Caucus letter states that Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade then any other state, citing mass shootings in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School, El Paso and Midland-Odessa. It also says that after every mass shooting Abbott has held press conferences and roundtables promising change.
“After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never hung more hollow. The time to take real action is now,” the letter reads.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Joey Lopez, for several years, served as a school trustee for two separate school districts. He said the safety of the school children should be a priority.
“Our parents bring over their children to the school district to entrust their safety and their education in our hands, and it is so important we help and to promote gun safety laws as to where things like this are limited and not happening again,” Lopez said.
The letter further states guns should not be easier to access than health insurance, baby formula, voting, books and enlisting in the military. The caucus is not trying to take away second amendment rights but is asking for reasonable laws or restrictions that will “create a safer Texas for all of us.”
Precinct 4 Commission Gus Ruiz, who served in the military, said that men and women sacrificed their lives for our country and that American veterans have given Americans the right to bear arms and freedom of speech.
“We do it to help progress our counties, our states and our country. We do it not for the reasons that happened on May 24. That is not the reason I served and many next to me, so I hope we can learn from this,” Ruiz said.