Gun control advocates are again calling on Texas lawmakers to restrict access to guns after at least 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Utah. Texas, Tuesday.
The suspect, Salvador Ramos, 18, a student at Uvalde High School, is also dead, authorities said. Officials told ABC News the suspect legally purchased two AR-type rifles on May 17 and May 20, respectively, just days after his 18th birthday.
In Texas, where there are few restrictions on buying firearms, people 18 or older are legally allowed to buy long guns, which include shotguns and rifles.
Republican lawmakers, who currently control the state legislature, have repeatedly eased restrictions on guns, even after recent mass shootings in the state.
” You do nothing ! Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke confronted Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a press conference on Wednesday.
In the wake of Uvalde’s shooting, Abbott pointed to a “mental health” issue in the community at Wednesday’s press conference and dismissed the suggestion that stricter gun laws could have prevented shooting.
“I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff, as well as the mayor of Uvalde,” the governor told reporters. “The question was, ‘what’s the problem here?’ And they were blunt and categorical. They said, ‘We have a mental health issue.’
Abbott echoed a common position that many Republican lawmakers at the state and national levels have repeatedly taken amid a nationwide debate over gun violence, which reaches a boiling point after every mass shooting.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates gun control and studies gun laws nationwide, seven of the deadliest mass shootings in US history have occurred. produced in the country over the past decade. And four of those shootings, including Uvalde’s, happened in Texas.
Most recently, 25 people were killed in a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017. And in August 2019, 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunmen, like the suspect in the Uvale shooting, used semi-automatic rifles in the shootings.
In the wake of those shootings, Abbott signed a series of bills last year to make guns easier to access. He argued that every piece of legislation reinforces the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
“Politicians from the federal to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens — but we won’t let that happen in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement on June 17, 2021. “Texas will always be the leader in defense of the Second Amendment, which is why we’ve built a fence around gun rights this session.”
Among the bills Abbot signed last year was the 1927 House Bill, dubbed the “Constitutional Carry” by gun rights advocates. The law made it legal for “law-abiding Texans” to carry handguns without a license or training. The law entered into force on September 1, 2021.
“I’m not here to take anyone’s guns. I’m not here to take anyone’s guns. But as this next legislative session takes place in January here in Texas, I will seek to restrain access to these types of weaponized weapons.”, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents the district where the Uvalde school shooting took place in Texas, Told ABC News live Wednesday.
“Again, no one in this rural community uses this type of weapon to go hunting,” he added.
Amid criticism from gun control advocates, who advocated for more restrictions in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Abbott defended the law, arguing that it “safeguards” the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
Abbott also signed an amendment into law in 2021 that relaxed restrictions on handguns based on age.
In Texas, you had to be 21 to get a handgun license, but the 2021 amendment allowed 18-year-olds to receive a license if they met other requirements, other than age, and whether they are protected under various protection orders, including having been the victim of violence, harassment or sexual abuse.
“We have a governor and a Republican-controlled legislature that has chosen to put more guns on the streets, [and] make it easier for young people to access firearms and weapons of war without training, without a license,” Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, told ABC News Live on Tuesday.
Escobar criticized the passage of legislation easing gun restrictions after it was signed by Abbott in June 2021 and said that following the El Paso shooting, Abbott had “chosen to betray the victims of armed violence”.
Following the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, which left 10 people dead, Abbott asked the state legislature to consider so-called “red flag” legislation that would allow the court-ordered removal of firearms from an individual who is deemed to be dangerous.
But the Republican governor was pushed back by gun rights advocates in his own party, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
“There seems to be convergence around the idea of not supporting what is classified as ‘red flag’ legislation,” Abbott said in July 2018, according to the Texas Tribune. “What’s important is… that we work together as a legislative body towards a solution to make our schools safer and to make our communities safer.”
After the Santa Fe shooting, Abbott announced a “school safety” plan and later signed bills that would, among other things, strengthen access to mental health in schools, increase police presence, hire more school safety commissioners and would remove the cap on how many can carry firearms in public schools.
Abbott also signed into law House Bill 2622 last year, making Texas a “Second Amendment sanctuary state by protecting Texans from new federal gun control regulations.”
A 1994 federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 — a measure that Democrats and gun control advocates have long fought to restore.
According to the Giffords Center, a study of mass shootings in which four or more people were killed found that more than 85% of those deaths were caused by assault rifles. Seven states and the District of Columbia ban assault weapons. In Texas, assault weapons are legal.
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.