AUSTIN, Texas - The regular session began with an understanding that some type of response to the school shooting in Uvalde had to be done.
Now, a year after that attack, the session is coming to a close with memorials to the victims, but the heartache remains, along with questions about if what was done during this session is the proper response to Uvalde and the recent attack in Allen.
FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski spoke to state Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), former House Democratic Caucus chairman, about where this debate is going.
Chris Turner: It's hard to believe it's been a year and it's just an unimaginable tragedy that I think is still so, so fresh in the hearts and minds of so many Texans, none more so than the families who lost their precious children. I don't think anything was accomplished on gun safety. You know, the very modest proposal to raise the age from 18 to 21 to buy a high-powered semiautomatic weapon, that's common sense legislation, which if one thing was accomplished is that it did garner some bipartisan support in the House committee. That is important to acknowledge and appreciate those members who cast that courageous vote. Members of the legislature, House Democrats and Senate Democrats have consistently advocated for raise the age, closing the background check loophole, enacting some sort of common sense red flag law and other proposals. But those have fallen on deaf ears, by and large, by the leadership.
Rudy Koski: A background bill did pass involving juveniles and their past criminal record. Isn't that a victory?
Chris Turner: That's an important measure, and I'm glad that it passed. Absolutely. But we need to do so much more. We ought to close background check loopholes for all buyers. We ought to ensure that we raise the age to 21 for buying these high-powered, high velocity weapons. We ought to require that a stolen gun be reported to law enforcement.
Rudy Koski: Knowing what we know now about what will pass, what will not pass? How do you come back with something different, a different strategy?
Chris Turner: Well, I think we need to continue to work for that. And the other common sense reforms that I mentioned. I think what has to change is the decision makers have to change or the people making the decisions have to change their minds. And both of those things, only the voters, I think, can make that happen. The voters have to send a clear message to their elected representatives of both parties that they want to see action on this. That's not extreme. The status quo is not acceptable, that that parents and their children have to live in fear of mass shootings, whether it be at a school or a shopping mall.
Rudy Koski: The bills that did pass requiring more school security, more mental health programs. Aren't they enough?
Chris Turner: They're good. I'm glad that we're doing those things. It's not enough though; we need to do all of it. Uvalde taught us that there were yes, there were failures in the mental health care delivery system. There were failures in school security and there was failure with respect to common sense gun safety measures in place. I think the measures on school security will help. On balance, I think more investments in mental health always are helpful. So there's a lot of things we can do in all of those areas, but we can't neglect common sense gun safety measures.
Rudy Koski: The 2024 presidential campaign is coming up. Do you fear that it's just going to be too volatile for this discussion, this debate, to move forward?
Chris Turner: No, I think the debate will continue to move forward. I think you see-
Rudy Koski: Really I mean, 2024 is going to be ugly.
Chris Turner: Yeah, no, it is. But I think it's going to be a... I think it'll be a central issue in the presidential campaign. I think it'll be a central issue in national races for the U.S. Senate and Congress around the country and including in races here in Texas for the legislature. I think more and more Americans want to see a return to some sanity with respect to our gun laws. And I do think that that will be a focal point in 2024.