Texas Democrats call for special session to discuss gun violence

The rising temperature from the stone steps at the Texas Capitol Wednesday seemed to match the sense of urgency from a group of state Democrats.

"I’m frustrated that the next mass shooting feels more inevitable than concrete action to stop it,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin). “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

The group announced the presentation of a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that he call a special session. While there would only be one issue—gun violence—several potential solutions were pitched.  

The list of ideas includes preventing sales to people who have protection orders against them, improving background checks, banning the sale of high-capacity magazines, limiting the open carry of some semi-automatic rifles and mandatory reporting of stolen guns

"We've had enough roundtables, we've had enough blue ribbon committees, we've done enough studies, there are actions we can take today to save Texas lives,” state Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) said.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) says there are also loopholes that can be closed, such as gaps where fugitives with arrest warrants can buy guns and preventing sales to people that had gun licenses revoked. 

Howard is worried any delay will be a tactical mistake.

"Not waiting till the next regular session, which will be a redistricting session, where we will have our allegiances pulled all kinds of different directions, which will prevent us from doing the things that need to be done,” said Howard.

Abbott, when he met with members of his domestic violence task force last month, did voice concern about private gun sales between strangers. 

On Wednesday a spokesman for the governor, John Wittman said the governor has made it clear all options are on the table. But as for a special session, Wittman stated it "doesn't include a helter-skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines. Instead, the governor seeks consensus rather than division.”

It was suggested that the lawmakers on the Capitol steps should go inside and start talking to their colleagues. Later Wednesday Abbott posted on social media that he would soon announce several executive actions, and next week he would suggest some legislative actions to consider.

There already is an indication about how difficult it will be to reach a consensus in the legislature. Several Republican House members have indicated when it comes to universal background checks and red flag laws, they remain no votes.  

The head of a gun advocacy group, Gun Owners of America-Texas, said there was common ground, but not much.

"I think the common ground definitely is in the realm of wanting to work to save lives,” said Rachel Malone.

Malone, who organized a protest last month as Governor Abbott held his task force meeting, wants to be part of the debate. She also wants to shift the focus.

"The issue isn’t the gun, and any type of gun control is actually going to end up hurting the victims and making them more vulnerable, because guns are actually used many times more often to save life and the CDC even found victims who use guns to defend themselves have lower injury rates than those who didn’t,” said Malone.

The lack of a lock down bill that can pass doesn’t worry Democrats. What happen earlier this year during the regular session was noted.

"We didn’t have consensus going in, but we developed consensus once we got there and we passed HB 3, which was a historic, historical transformation, for our public schools, so if we sure should be able to do that for this right here,” said state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).