Austin City Council urging state, federal government to act on gun violence

For Austin City Council member Alison Alter, it's personal.

"Like many of you here today I have held my breath when my 16-year-old daughter stepped out of my car in the school parking lot. This Spring I had to figure out how to let go after an active-shooter threat at her high school here in Austin," Alter said during a Wednesday morning press conference at City Hall.

Alter's daughter Natalie read a poem written by her brother Zachary after more than 30 people were killed by gunfire in weekend mass shootings across the country.

"We are all still here, staring at the television screens with wide eyes as hollow speech follows hollow prayer," Natalie read.

Surrounded by fellow council members, Mayor Steve Adler and groups like Moms Demand Action and Texas Gun Sense, Alter laid out a resolution urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the legislature to finish work on his own School and Firearm Safety Action plan. The resolution also calls for the United States Senate to immediately return from break and work on "meaningful gun safety legislation."

"Clearly we need to improve our mental health system and that should be a focal point of any society," council member Leslie Pool said. "But too often this is used as a talking point by the hard right to avoid taking necessary steps on gun control."

"Mental health is a real issue that we need to address and that we need to fund services," Alter said. "The connection to gun violence is just not there in the statistics."

Alter says we know how to solve the problem.

"We need to begin with regulating gun sales and having the background checks at all gun sales and having the extreme risk protective orders,"  Alter said. "We need to get guns out of people's hands who hate and make it less easy for them to access the guns. It is the access to guns that we have in the U.S. that differentiates us from every other country."  

Austin Second Amendment advocate Michael Cargill says council members should be working on other things.

"The city of Austin and the city council members need to focus on homeless[ness] because that is our biggest problem, they need to focus on traffic," he said.  

Cargill, a gun store owner and handgun license instructor, says the current background check system works.

"This is a parenting problem. We need to focus on loving each other, we need to focus on being a lot nicer, being a loving community," Cargill said.  "'Red Flag' laws wouldn't have worked either so what new law can you create?  Nothing."

"It's not about gun control, it's about preventing gun violence, and we need to think about it as a public health crisis," Alter said.

At a meeting today, Abbott said we need to make sure deranged killers don't get guns but at the same time insuring constitutional rights aren't violated. He says there will be a round table on the issue here in Austin soon.