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Texas legislators divided over timing of special session on guns

Texas legislators call for special session on gun safety
Texas legislators call for special session on gun safety 01:52

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) - Debate has already begun over whether Governor Greg Abbott should call the Texas Legislature into a special session in response to the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde.      

Nineteen students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School were killed by an 18-year-old gunman who gained access through a rear door left open.

State Representative Victoria Neave Criado of Mesquite is among the Democratic state lawmakers who want a special session. "The fact is our community can wait no longer we have the data from previous mass shootings in Texas. We need to be able to get into the Capitol to be able to debate and argue the law so that we can pass something for the people of Texas that will hopefully save lives." 

State Representative Matt Shaheen, R-Plano disagreed. "It's probably too early for a special session right now.  Some of the information that was reported to us, reported to the public, there's some contradictions right now. I think we really need to get these facts established. Let that play out and then we can talk about legislative fixes, whether it's special session or not."      

Governor Abbott was asked about a potential special session during a news conference in Uvalde Friday. "First and foremost, all options are on the table. Second, most importantly, to your point. Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes. There will be laws in multiple different subject areas., but I do fully expect to have every law that we passed in the aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting to be completely revisited."

Ten people died in the shooting at Santa Fe High School May 18, 2018.

Republican State Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo tweeted Friday, "Governor Abbott should call us into special sessions until we do SOMETHING."

In a tweet this weekend, Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach of Allen agreed there should be a special session. "If you're a #txlege Republican who I locked arms with in 2017 to get a special session to ensure schoolchildren don't see their classmates naked in a bathroom, I hope you'll also join me now to work to ensure schoolchildren don't see their classmates murdered in their classroom."

But the next day, in a follow-up tweet, Leach agreed with Republican State Representative Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and said a special session should be called after a complete investigation. "I'll agree with @Burrows4TX here. A special session should eventually be called to implement a plan based on facts and data."

On Saturday, the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, led by Senator Carol Alvarado of Houston, sent the Governor a letter urging him to call a special session and demanding laws be passed that would: raise the age of purchasing a firearm to 21, establish universal background checks, red flag laws to identify the mentally ill who shouldn't possess guns temporarily, a cooling-off period, and regulate civilian sales of high-capacity magazines.

Senator Alvarado said, "We must address the physical and mental health of our nation, and confront the public health issue at hand - gun violence. We are not trying to take away Second Amendment rights. Instead, we are asking for reasonable laws or restrictions that will create a safer Texas for all of us." 

Representatives Neave Criado and Shaheen disagree over the Democrats' potential solutions.

Shaheen said, "There's already gun control provisions in place, it's against the law in the state of Texas and nationally to own a firearm if you've been convicted of a felony. If you've been convicted of drug abuses of domestic abuse, you're not allowed to purchase a firearm, if you're mentally ill, you had to pass a background check. I know we already had the provisions in place. We need to go beyond that."

Representative Neave Criado said red flag laws would be very helpful. "There are emergency or extreme risk protective orders where you know that something is imminent or pending, it gives our law enforcement and the courts the tool to take whatever action is necessary to be able to prevent that. Solutions like red flag laws, closing the boyfriend loophole, universal background checks are supported by a broad bipartisan community in our state and in our country."

Shaheen said he's reached out to Facebook, to see if technology can track down people before they act on their threats as the 18-year-old gunman did in Uvalde.  "Facebook has the ability on their platform to do keyword searches. What they can also do after they find maybe some disturbing messages is use artificial intelligence to make decisions. You got to imagine Facebook is processing millions of messages, probably every minute.  You need artificial intelligence solutions that are out there that can read those messages, make determinations.. and then reach out to law enforcement."

Though the lawmakers we spoke with disagreed over the timing of a special session, they did say there is a sense of urgency for the legislature to act. 

Neave Criado and Shaheen said they've spoken with state lawmakers in both parties.

See Jack's full interview with Rep. Neave Crido:

Rep. Neave on call for special session over gun laws 08:41

See Jack's full interview with Rep. Shaheen:

Rep. Shaheen on call for special session over gun laws 03:05
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