Texas Democrats call for special session to combat gun violence

Texas Democrats are calling on Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session.

They want to put legislation in the books to combat gun violence after two recent deadly mass shootings in Texas, and they don't want to wait until 2021 to do it.

But critics say that bringing lawmakers back to Austin would be a waste, and likely won’t happen.

State Democrats made a similar call for action after the El Paso shooting. They say sensible gun control should not be a party-line issue.

As the governor considers their request, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced the formation of new select committees on mass violence prevention and community safety.

Texas House Democrats held joint news conferences across the state Wednesday to demand Gov. Abbott call an emergency legislative session to address gun violence.

“Our current laws are simply not enough. Our laws are insufficient to protect the lives of the people of Texas,” Rep. Victoria Neave said.

The two most recent mass shootings in Texas highlight the complexities of the problem.

The Odessa shooter, who killed seven and injured 22, was declared mentally unfit to pass a background check, but got around the restrictions by purchasing his rifle through a private sale.

Police say the shooter who killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart weeks earlier was motivated by hatred of immigrants.

“We're talking about trying to get something done for the great state of Texas on this particular issue,” State Senator Royce West said.

In a letter sent to Gov. Abbott by the House Democratic Caucus, members are demanding the following:

1. Closing loopholes in protective order laws

2. Closing background check loopholes

3. Banning the sale of high-capacity magazines

4. Limiting the open carry of certain semi-automatic long guns

5. Requiring stolen guns to be reported to law enforcement 

“There's lot of Republicans in both chambers that are going to say, ‘I don't want to change the laws at all,’” SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson said.

Wilson thinks there's zero change the governor will call a special session because there would not be a majority consensus in the Republican-controlled legislature on what to do.

“The worst thing you can do is call a special session that doesn't end up agreeing to do anything,” he added.

Gov, Abbott sees the Texas Safety Commission as one way forward. He created the panel of law enforcement advisors, psychologists, and social media experts after the El Paso mass shooting to identify threats from hate groups and extremists.

But in a red state, where Gov. Abbott's base largely supports keeping Second Amendment rights intact, Wilson believes Abbott will defer to his committees and the federal government to take on the most controversial issues.

“It would be remarkable and unprecedented if Texas were to get out ahead of the country in terms of restriction gun control legislation,” Wilson said.

A spokesman for Gov. Abbott said the solution isn't dividing lawmakers on party-lines, and added that legislating on tough issues takes time.