Last Wednesday, June 1, State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) was appointed to the newly formed Texas Senate Special Committee to Keep All Texans Safe by Texas Lt. Governor Dan. Patrick.
The Special Committee, created by the Lt. Governor at the request of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is charged with examining issues surrounding school safety in the wake of the deadly Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, during which 19 innocent children and two fourth grade teachers were brutally gunned down by an 18-year-old, using a military-grade, assault rifle.
He thanked the Lt. Gov. for his appointment to the Select Committee, while challenging fellow senators and committee members to look past ideological differences and make a serious effort to examine all causes and factors that contribute to mass shootings.
“It is imperative that we have an honest discussion as it relates to the intent of the 2nd Amendment, now within the context of military-styled assault rifles that are in the hands of civilians; and too many times in the hands of those who should not have them,” said Senator West.
“Other areas that should be explored include mandatory cooling-off periods before the completion of certain firearms purchases and the fact that the majority of Texans and Americans support universal background checks.
“Further, the hardening of schools alone is not a panacea for preventing the loss of lives connected to school shootings,” he West said. “Without a discussion about common-sense gun regulations, my concern is that we will issue a report that does little to provide guidance as we head into the 2023 Legislative Session and more importantly, does even less to make parents feel they can safely send their children to school or have the freedom to frequent the public venues that’s ingrained into all our lives.”
Sen. West, formerly a Chief Felony Prosecutor for Dallas County, authored a bill to ban assault weapons during his first Legislative Session in 1993. He has been an advocate for common-sense gun regulations for nearly 30 years, writing and supporting bills that require trigger locks, would close gun show loopholes and prohibit straw purchases of guns for people who cannot legally buy them. Mental health, along with school security, he adds, are rightly component parts of a healthy discussion with the inherent goal to protect all Texans but should not define its limits.
“Mental health, another issue that I have worked on for years, must be part of the dialogue, including addressing the mental health needs of students who have been removed from the classroom for behavioral problems and those with truancy issues,” Senator West said, noting that classroom removals and truancy are known early indicators of possible mental health issues among students.
According to the senator, funding currently included in the state budget also needs to be evaluated for its effectiveness, including those expended as part of the School Safety Allotment and for the Texas School Safety Center.
“While funding has been appropriated by the Legislature for hardening schools, it still may require voters to approve bonds for the additional security measures to be put in place,” Sen. West said.
“School safety, target hardening and mental health dialogue absent earnest discussion about the role that the proliferation of guns has in our society will not get us to a solution that will help ensure the safety of students and school personnel.”
The senator said he is looking forward to having discussions with fellow Committee members and colleagues, “Our mission must put politics aside and focus on saving lives.”