Gun violence is the focus of several hearings scheduled this week at the state capitol. Monday, lawmakers took up what may be the most difficult topic to address: when and how guns should be confiscated from someone.
Members of the state House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee opened the hearing Monday morning well aware of the fine line they were about to walk.
"First, we are not considering specific bills here today, this hearing is about two concepts,” said Committee Chairman State Rep. Joe Moody ( D ) El Paso.
The focus is on red flag situations. Things like applying gun confiscation laws, used in domestic violence protection orders, to those who threaten school violence. Gun storage laws and mandatory reporting of gun thefts are also under consideration. Jerry Patterson, who wrote a concealed carry law as a GOP state senator, believes change is possible, but offered a warning.
"The idea that we are going to stop school shootings by something you do here, or something that is done in Congress, is a bogus premise," said Patterson.
The committee was also warned by Harris County Judge Judy Warne, that expanding confiscation laws will require additional funding for local authorities.
"Right now, we don’t have a place for gun surrender and that’s been the problem with the Protective Order statue nationwide,” said Judge Warne.
Mental health advocates testified applying mental health laws to cases of school threats should go beyond a temporary removal of guns.
"I also think it’s very important that services are provided during this time period, and services are provided for suicide prevention," said Merily Keller with the Texas Suicide Prevention Council.
Cissy Perez a school principal form Corpus Christi brought pictures of kids with guns posted on social media and suggested the creation of a new universal warning system. It would track students with discipline issues.
"By the time you wait for it to get mailed, that’s a lot of lag time, a child can withdraw from one school one day, head to another city or parts of the district and the educators there would have no idea that this student had just threatened another student with a knife, pulled out a knife or firearm,” said Perez.
Having formal discussions about regulating guns in Texas does represent a big shift under the Capitol dome. And the hearings Monday is one of several for the week.
Wednesday there will be a hearing on school safety designs. Thursday the use of retired police and military veterans for school security will be discussed. Later, on Thursday, testimony about expanding the school marshal program will be held.
While some ideas are controversial, committee member State Rep. Donna Howard indicated nothing should be left off the table.
"And so to say we are going to start from the place of what can we possibly politically do as oppose to what are the things that may actually make a difference here and see how we can get there politically I’m not sure we start off by a self-defeating position of saying we can’t get there,” said the Austin Democrat.
Hearings on specific legislation will begin in January. That’s when the regular session begins.