• September 16, 2019

TEXAS VIEW: Do votes mean more than lives to Texas Republican leaders? - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: Do votes mean more than lives to Texas Republican leaders?

THE POINT: If politics isn’t all they care about, the governor will call for a special session and legislators will come up with meaningful reforms.

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Posted: Monday, September 9, 2019 2:30 am

Texas leaders who keep going through the motions of addressing mass shootings in this state without making significant changes should be ashamed.

In the past two years, eight people were killed during a domestic dispute by a gunman in Plano, 26 killed by a gunman in at a church in Sutherland Springs, 10 killed by a gunman in a Santa Fe school, 22 killed by a gunman outside a Walmart in El Paso, and seven killed Saturday by a gunman during a police chase in Odessa.

“I’m tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas. The status quo is unacceptable,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday. But the only specific proposal he made to address the violence is to speed up the execution of convicted mass murderers.

Abbott said he was working on a legislative package to address mass shootings. “Expedited executions for mass murderers would be a nice addition,” he tweeted Monday, retweeting an article about the Department of Justice’s plans to do the same. But suggesting that speedier executions would help prevent future mass murders is an insult to Texans’ intelligence.

Texas already metes out capital punishment swifter than most states; on average within 11 years here compared with 15 years nationally. Secondly, the state cannot stop automatic appeals in capital punishment cases, including possible reviews by the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which can take a decade.

As for the legislation he says he’s working on, Abbott knows lawmakers won’t return to session until 2021. That’s too long, and Abbott should know that. And yet, the governor so far has refused to call a special session.

It’s not just Abbott, however, who avoids legislative remedies to gun violence. None of the state’s other political leaders .... are speaking out for reform.

In fact, the day after the Odessa shooting eight new laws loosening gun restrictions in Texas went into effect.

Among other things, the new laws repeal the ban on carrying firearms into a house of worship, prevent towns from having gun laws more restrictive than the state’s, prevent landlords from barring a tenant or guests from having a firearm, and allow unlicensed people to carry a gun for up to a week after a natural disaster.

Escalating the amount of firepower available is no way to stem gun violence.

Polls show Texans have become more receptive to stricter gun laws, with more than 60 percent in favor of extending background checks to gun shows and private sales. But the partisan divide is wide, with Republicans strongly opposed to almost any legislated gun reform, including bans on semi-automatic weapons (78 percent) and high-capacity magazines (72 percent).

Do those numbers matter more to the Republicans who run this state than the 73 people who have died in mass shootings over the past two years?

It’s not enough for the politicians to say no. If saving lives truly means more to them than winning votes, they won’t let the Odessa shooting become yet another footnote in the long history of gun violence in Texas.

If politics isn’t all they care about, the governor will call for a special session and legislators will come up with meaningful reforms that will help Texas become a safer place for people to go to school, the store, or a place of worship.

If Abbott is as tired of seeing innocent people being shot to death as he says he is, he will match his words with action.

>> Houston Chronicle

Odessa, TX

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