Dallas' Eric Johnson Joins Bipartisan Group of Texas Mayors Demanding Special Session on Gun Reform

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is calling for "common sense gun reform."
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is calling for "common sense gun reform." Brian Maschino
The mayors of Texas’ largest cities have just about heard enough of Gov. Greg Abbott’s talk when it comes to guns. Less jabber, they say, more gumption: Call a special session.

In a letter released Tuesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced he'd joined a bipartisan group of a dozen city leaders demanding that the Republican governor act: Do something to prevent yet another mass shooting claiming the lives of innocent Texans; Do something to keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them.

“Families are asking us how many more shootings must happen before we act,” the group of mayors wrote. “The communities of Uvalde, El Paso, Santa Fe, and Sutherland Springs deserve better. In response to mass shootings — Florida passed red flag laws, and we can do the same here in Texas.”

The mayors’ petition comes roughly a month after an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, which left 19 children and two educators dead. Most Texans want to see their kids protected via “common sense reform,” the 13 mayors wrote.

February polling by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas found that 43% of the state’s voters would like gun control laws to become stricter.

The coalition of big-city mayors is urging Abbott to call a special session to tackle several gun reform measures. The five actions they want to see added to the call are new red flag laws, raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase so-called assault weapons, universal background checks, a boost in school safety officer resources and training, plus a spike in mental health support funding.

“These reforms, supported by most Texans, would have prevented the shooters in El Paso and Uvalde from obtaining their weapons,” they wrote. (Authorities believe that the Uvalde suspect bought two assault-style rifles just after he turned 18.)

Days after the Uvalde massacre, Insider reported that Abbott had declined to back any new gun control laws. He did, however, insist on improving campus safety, such as school security policies, as well as Texas' mental health services.

Loosening gun restrictions makes the jobs of law enforcement harder, the mayors argued. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia urged lawmakers last year not to pass the so-called permitless carry bill. But pass it did, allowing Texans to carry handguns without training or a permit.

It seems unlikely that Abbott will pay much attention to the mayors, considering that legislators didn’t listen to Garcia, one of the state's top cops. Still, multiple conservative mayors have added their signatures to the letter, including Fort Worth’s Mattie Parker and John Muns of Plano.

Texas is lacking when it comes to mental health care access, ranking No. 50 in the country, the mayors noted. Following the Uvalde shooting, Abbott said the suspect had mental health issues and admitted that the state needs to improve its mental health support.

But the mayors have called for better resources in behavioral health, “several magnitudes greater than what has been mentioned.” And they argue that to protect the Second Amendment, common-sense gun policies must pass to make it harder for dangerous people to obtain those weapons.

“We cannot stand idly by while more of our fellow Texans, often our children and law enforcement officers, are laid to rest as the result of another preventable shooting,” they wrote. “Action is the only thing that will save more lives.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter