Gun Control Remains Hot-Button Debate in Texas

Following the Sun, Nov. 5, 2017 mass shooting at Southerland Springs Church in Texas that left 26 people dead, Republican State Representative for Dallas, John Villalba, wrote in an open letter to his “Fellow Texans” asking Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus for a bipartisan commission on Gun Violence in Texas. Villalba wants the commission to be chaired by an appointee of the governor with vice chairpersons appointed by the lieutenant governor and the speaker. The commission would also be made up of four members of the House, two from each party, and four other members including an ethicist, a law enforcement specialist, a member of the clergy and a mental health expert.

“The primary charge of the commission shall be to determine the root causes of gun violence in Texas and to provide proposed legislation to address these issues and which shall be adopted in the 86th Legislature,” Villalba wrote. “There is no question that mental health plays a significant role in these attacks, and certainly, adequate mental health funding and accessibility shall be a key component to any solution to this complex issue.”

However, Villalba’s letter has been met with opposition from the Democrat side. Democrat member of the Texas House of Representatives, Alfonso Nevarez, told Newsweek on Fri, Nov. 10, 2017 that there was no need of forming a commission. “We don’t need a commission. We need bills,” Nevárez said. “What are we going to do in a commission, sit around and talk?”

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has seemed to reiterate Villalba’s sentiments on the need to focus on the issue about mental health as opposed to introducing more gun laws. Two days after the shooting, President Trump told news reporters in Seoul, South Korea that new gun laws would not have prevented the newest mass shootings in the United States, before adding that such new measures are “not going to help.”

In a tweet on Tues, Nov. 7, 2017, Trump tweeted with regard to the Texas shooter, pointing out the weakness in the implementation of the current laws on gun control. “Air Force failed to enter Texas gunman’s assault charge into FBI database that would have prevented him from buying a gun. But more gun laws?” Trump tweeted.

Trump seemed to lean more towards nationwide implementation of mental health policies instead of focusing on guns, claiming that Devin Kelley, the Texas church mass shooter, was a “deranged individual.” In his Seoul address to reporters, Trump said that tougher vetting would only lead to increased bloodshed.

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