Parents of the children killed in the Uvalde school massacre traveled to Texas’s Capitol building Tuesday to urge one of the most gun-friendly legislatures to enact a slate of measures aimed at preventing another mass shooting. No significant gun control bill has been passed in Texas since the May 24 shooting that left 19 Robb Elementary students and two teachers dead. Uvalde’s blunt-talking state senator and a coalition of parents said they are determined not to let one of the nation’s worst school shootings slide off the radar, reports the Washington Post. Sen. Roland Gutierrez has filed 10 bills and two budget appropriation requests, and has 11 more legislative proposals in the works, including one in response to an investigation from the Washington Post, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune aimed at improving the emergency medical response to mass killings. “This is personal to me. These people have become my friends,” Gutierrez said, pointing to the parents of three slain students. “These people deserve more than what they got.” The Democrat is facing a reluctant body of lawmakers that has consistently loosened restrictions on guns after mass killings and set aside a small fraction of the state’s billion-dollar surplus toward mental health and school safety. Since the day of the shooting, a loose coalition of Uvalde families has been at the forefront of a movement to hold officials accountable and push for gun-safety measures, such as raising the gun purchasing age from 18 to 21.
They’ve joined forces with national anti-gun violence groups. They are planning to become a regular presence in Austin to meet individually with lawmakers and tell and retell their story for as long as it takes, Gutierrez said. Tuesday’s appearance marked the second time in recent weeks families have gathered at the legislature to push for reform. The brutality of Uvalde’s suffering has lingered in the national consciousness, giving them a chance to “create a moment,” the senator said. Republican Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan urged his colleagues to honor the Robb Elementary school shooting victims through “sensible meaningful change,” but defining what that looks like will be up to one of the most conservative state legislatures. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has signaled a willingness to talk, Gutierrez said, and he sees room for compromise on school safety and mental health. Democrats have asked for $2 billion to increase mental health access in rural Texas and another $2 billion for school safety measures such as bulletproof windows. Gutierrez hopes to build bipartisan support for a bill to enhance rural emergency responder communications and training to coordinate among agencies during a mass casualty event.