Commentary: Federal gun safety reforms only a first step

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Pistol bullets, handgun on USA flag.

Originally published in the San Antonio Express News

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is the first federal gun safety package of reforms in nearly three decades.

It is a good beginning, but it looks to state legislatures to fill in the gaps. My hope, especially after the July Fourth mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., is more Texans will realize that while more stringent gun laws are inconvenient, saving lives is worth it. In future primary and general elections, I will not support those who do not vote for the safety of our families.

After mass shootings in ruby-red Florida, lawmakers there passed red flag laws and raised the age of all gun purchases to 21. Giving judges the ability to remove guns from those who are mentally unstable or violent is a good idea. Since 18-year-olds are not allowed to buy alcohol because they can make bad decisions, why not raise the age to buy any gun to 21? Voters should hold their lawmakers accountable for lax laws.

If the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act were more comprehensive, it would take away pressure from state legislatures to act now to stop the killing. If Florida can recognize the value of gun restrictions, why not Texas? It is essential that we let Texas legislators know inaction is totally unacceptable.

In comments after the Uvalde massacre, Texas Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, reflected on inaction following the Midland-Odessa shooting in 2019. “The governor said ‘We’re not going to let this happen again,’” Seliger said. “But I sat there in the 87th session, and we did nothing. I haven’t been able to sleep since then. We have to do something because it’s going to happen again.”

Many Texas political leaders continue to say the problem is not guns but lack of security and mental health care in our schools. They ignore that recent mass shootings also occurred in doctors’ offices, churches and grocery stores. The only common denominator is guns, and to ignore that will have deadly consequences.

My compliments to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who helped negotiate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, for being the only Republican U.S. House lawmaker from Texas to have the courage to vote in favor of these federal reforms.

Cornyn was booed at the recent Republican state convention for his work to protect our families. Cornyn said of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the reforms, “They have a membership and a business model that will not allow them to support any legislation.”

Still, these additional actions are needed:

• Increase the age to purchase a gun to 21 years.

• Implement universal background checks before any gun purchase.

• Enact red-flag laws that allow judges to order the removal of guns in cases of violent behavior or mental instability if safety is a concern.

• Limit magazine size to slow the speed of killing.

• Increase incentives for safe gun storage to decrease accidental deaths of children.

I ask all legislators to enact gun safety laws that are strong enough to make a difference. I ask everyone, especially National Rifle Association members, to request meaningful gun safety measures so fewer people will want to take away assault weapons. The inconvenience of gun safety laws is worth saving lives.