AUSTIN - Three days after a gunman killed 26 people in a Sutherland Springs church, four Texas State Representatives are calling on their colleagues to pass bills aimed at reducing gun violence.
Representative Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) wants to start with the open carry of rifles.
"I've got a lot of guns and no one's coming to take my guns. I can guarantee you that," he said. "But we have this oddity here in Texas where you can walk around fully locked and loaded, with a long rifle, with an AR15. And this gentleman who obtained this rifle illegally, imagine this, it would have been illegal for the police to actually brace him and ask him what he was doing with his weapon. In other words, they could not have stopped him and asked him, 'Hey, do you have a concealed handgun permit? Are you even someone who can legally buy a weapon?' That would have been illegal. They could not have done that."
Representative Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) said she wants her colleagues to treat gun violence as a public health matter.
"Calling this latest act of gun violence a mental health problem is a distraction," said Collier. "The sad truth is that when you look at the mortality rate compared with any other leading causes of death, gun violence has been associated with less funding and fewer publications of research. It is my desire that gun violence prevention be addressed as a public health matter. I am calling for a series of hearings, not for the session, but now. We need to take action now."
"What's it going to take," asked Representative Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth). "Is it going to take one of the representatives or one of the senators on the other side of this building to lose one of their children in a mass shooting for us to take this action seriously?"
Gun rights advocate Michael Cargill disagrees.
"Absolutely not," he said. "There's nothing wrong with our state laws."
But the gun store owner said changes do need to be made on the federal level, mainly more timely reporting to gun stores to ensure they don't sell weapons to people who shouldn't have them.
And Cargill agrees with Austin Representative Gina Hinojosa (D), who wants to see people punished for lying on applications.
"We also need to prosecute people who are lying on the background check," said Cargill. "Because that's not happening. They're actually lying on a government document. That in itself is a felony."
Nationally, there is a bill before U.S. Senators regulating gun ownership. Senate Bill 1539 would prohibit convicted stalkers and domestic abusers from buying or owning guns.
The Sutherland Springs shooter was convicted of a domestic assault.
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