Texas senator proposes bills to reduce shootings, monument for victims

FILE PHOTO: Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez testifies about the Uvalde shooting, on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Brad Brooks

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) -A Texas state senator on Tuesday proposed a package of legislation aimed at reducing mass shootings, like the one at a Uvalde elementary school that killed 19 kids and two teachers last year.

Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, made appropriations requests of $2 billion in spending for expanding mental healthcare access and another $2 billion for increasing school security.

Gutierrez said that next week he would introduce legislation in the Republican-dominated body, bills aimed at curtailing access to guns and ammunition, but did not provide details.

He is also proposing moving a Confederate monument located on the grounds of the Texas state capitol and replacing it with one dedicated to the victims and survivors of several mass shootings that have hit the state in recent years.

It was not clear if the bills would pass - aides for top Republicans in the legislature said it was too soon to tell how the proposals would be received.

State legislatures across the United States in recent years have passed laws aimed at curtailing mass shootings, though some critics have said the laws focus on preparing for, and not preventing, the violence. In June, President Joe Biden signed the first major federal gun reform passed by Congress in three decades.

"We should honor the kids that we failed so that we never forget them," Gutierrez said at a press conference with family members of school shooting victims from Uvalde and Santa Fe, Texas.

Gutierrez also announced legislation to create a 10,000-officer strong Texas School Patrol to help secure schools across the state and increased training for several other law enforcement agencies in how to respond to school shootings.

Another bill would improve radio operations in rural communities, as radios failed for officers who responded to the school shooting in Uvalde.

The response from several law enforcement agencies to the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde last May was widely viewed as disastrous.

Officers waited well over an hour before confronting the gunman who was holed up in fourth grade classrooms, despite children calling emergency services from a teacher's phone and pleading for help.

It was the deadliest U.S. school shooting in almost a decade.

Gutierrez called on fellow legislators to pass the bills, saying "we have the money" and the responsibility to make improvements in school safety.

"Each parent should be able to send their kid to school, knowing they're going to be able to pick them up at the end of the day," he said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Stephen Coates)