DALLAS — Texas House Democrats stood united Wednesday, urging Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special session of the legislature to debate legislation they believe would cut down on gun violence in Texas.
But the governor’s office responded saying the Democrats’ demands for a special session would lead to hastily called votes that would divide legislators along party lines.
At multiple news conferences across the state, Democrats said urgent action is necessary after two mass shootings within 30 days that took 29 lives and injured dozens more in El Paso, Midland and Odessa.
They say the state can’t wait until 2021 – the next regularly scheduled legislative session – to enact new laws.
But Gov. Abbott tweeted after the Democrats’ news conference that he will announce executive action this week and legislative considerations next week.
“Legislators can be part of the process or part of the problem,” he tweeted.
At the news conference held in Dallas, state Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth said, “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, this is about putting that aside so that we can save the lives of the people of Texas.”
She said mass shootings are only part of the problem – she cited gun violence in communities, too.
The Democrats said the special session should open up debate on issues like tightening background checks, requiring stolen guns be reported to law enforcement, limiting open carry of semi-automatic long guns and banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.
“The bills we are talking about are not radical, they are not seeking to take away people’s guns,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, adding that he believes there is bipartisan support for several of their proposals.
“If we have a governor willing to call emergency sessions or emergency items and special sessions on things like the bathroom bills, he sure as hell should be calling it on mass murder in this state,” Anchia said, referring to the 2017 special session Abbott called.
A special session lasts 30 days, which state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said doesn’t give enough time for the House and Senate to come up with legislative solutions that can pass both chambers and then be signed into law.
Geren was named to the new House and Senate committees formed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Tuesday.
Committees are the way to proceed, the governor’s office suggested.
“Legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time,” said John Wittman, Gov. Abbott’s press secretary. “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.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said that statement from Wittman was “disappointing.”
“This cannot wait until 2021,” he said. “What we’re asking our Republican colleagues to do is work with us and think about not just the people who vote in the Republican primary, but all the people of Texas.”
He said Republicans tell them privately they want to act.
“I think that the majority of people in the legislature believe thoughts and prayers are no longer enough,” Turner said.
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- Neighbors in West Texas return to work and school days after mass shooting tragedy
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