Texas House Democrats are totally united. Sixty-three of the 66 members of the party's House caucus signed a letter Wednesday calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the Legislature to address the rash of gun violence that's marred Texas' summer. As they repeated at news conferences all over the state, they want the governor to "do something."
“If we have a governor that’s willing to call emergency sessions or emergency items and special sessions on things like the bathroom bill, he sure as hell should be calling it on mass murder in this state. That’s what we’re here talking about today,” Oak Cliff state Rep. Rafael Anchia said in Dallas.
Grand Prairie's Chris Turner, the chairman of the Texas House's Democratic Caucus, said that he and his colleagues are ready to do whatever it takes to pass a "red-flag" law and close loopholes in the state's protective order laws, close background-check loopholes, ban high-capacity magazines, limit the open carry of semi-automatic long guns and require stolen guns be reported to law enforcement.
“The governor’s office said that crafting these kinds of laws is hard work — it is hard work, but we’re ready to do the hard work," Turner said. "The governor should welcome the opportunity to do this hard work as well, because that’s what the people of Texas expect of him.”
In the wake of recent mass gun murders in Midland-Odessa and El Paso, Abbott has convened roundtables to address gun violence, just as he did to address gun violence in schools following the May 2018 massacre at Santa Fe High School. He's shown no willingness to call the legislature — which meets once every two springs and won't reconvene until January 2021 — back to Austin.
That didn't change Wednesday, as Abbott's office instead pointed to the special committee to investigate gun violence created by Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Tuesday.
"The Democrats who are part of today's partisan pitch can be part of the bipartisan legislative process announced yesterday that is geared toward achieving real solutions, or they can be part of politics as usual that will accomplish nothing," the governor's office said. "If Democrats really want to change the law, they need to stop talking to the cameras and start talking to colleagues in the Capitol to reach consensus."
A special session might be a decent vehicle to facilitate that sort of conversation, but Abbott's unwillingness to call one doesn't seem like a huge loss for Democrats. Their colleagues don't seem particularly close to coming to an agreement on gun restrictions.
East Texas state Rep. Matt Schaefer called out Democrats for not protecting the self-defense right of undocumented Texas residents, citing presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's plan to end private gun sales.
Schaefer and other Republicans have also come out against "red-flag" laws, which allow police or family members to petition courts to temporarily take firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Schaefer blames "Godless hearts" for the shootings. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — the man who controls the Texas Senate's agenda — has blamed video games and the lack of prayer in schools for gun murders.