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Former Republican lawmaker senses shift in gun conversation in Texas

Former state Rep. Jason Villalba is also promoting the school marshal program, which he introduced while in office.
Credit: WFAA
Former Texas state Rep. Jason Villalba

AUSTIN, Texas — When it comes to conversations around gun safety and what must be done next in our state and our communities, former Republican state Rep. Jason Villalba says after the Uvalde massacre, it might be easier to find some common ground.

“I do sense that there is some ice thawing on this front,” the Republican said on Inside Texas Politics.

Even if Uvalde is a turning point in the gun conversation in Texas, Villalba says -- stresses, really -- it doesn’t mean guns will be taken away or that certain types of weapons will be banned.

“What it means is, if we’re going to have access to high powered weapons that can kill many people in a short period of time, the individuals who have access to those weapons must be background checked, they must be over the age of 21, they must not have a history of mental illness or domestic violence or domestic abuse,” said Villalba.

Nearly ten years ago while still a state representative from Dallas, Villalba introduced a bill that passed and created the school marshal program. It allows any school employee with a license to carry to volunteer to carry a gun on campus to help protect a school.

But few districts have signed on. 

Watch the segment below:

The Texas Tribune reports only 84 school districts have opted into the program out of more than 1,200 districts statewide. And it reports only 361 people have become licensed school marshals out of more than 369,000 public school teachers on 9,000 campuses.

Villalba says he, too, heard those statistics from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), which oversees the program and also provides the training (80 hours).

He says there are two main reasons more schools haven’t signed on. 

First, districts who do want to implement don’t have the resources to do so. 

And second, he says, the state didn’t provide enough resources in the beginning to promote the program to districts. So, many don’t even know about it.  

Once they do, he is confident more will opt in.

“School marshal introduces a new peace officer, if you will, almost like a school resource officer. Someone who’s been trained, 80 hours of training, active shooter training, background checks, mental evaluations regularly,” said Villalba.  

"These people are essentially police officers, but they serve in the school on campus in some other form, usually somebody who’s like a vice principal, or even a coach, or it could teachers," he added.

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