UVALDE, Texas — This weekend, before President Biden even signed the historic gun reform bill that some say is the most significant gun legislation in decades, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez was already thinking ahead to the next legislative session here in Texas.
Among the proposals he says lawmakers should consider? Raising the age limit for buying semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21.
"I'm an owner of guns," Gutierrez says on this week's episode of the Y'all-itics podcast. "All I'm saying is that an 18-year-old should not get an AR-15 like he’s going shopping at the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee."
The Democrat points to recent polling as proof that the Texas public wants more to be done in terms of gun control. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 51 percent of registered Texas voters polled say they thought stricter gun laws would help to decrease the number of mass shootings. And that's just the start: 58 percent of registered Texas voters polled say they support stricter gun laws in the United States, and 73 percent support raising the legal minimum age to buy any gun to 21 years old nationwide.
"We’re on Day 30 from this incident," Gutierrez says, referencing the Uvalde mass shooting that ended with 19 children and two teachers dead. "We’re 54 days from school starting, and this governor has refused to move an inch on common sense gun solutions. So, I'll be talking a lot about that."
Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, also tells Y'all-itics that he and the community there are still waiting for answers to the many questions surrounding the law enforcement response to the tragic shooting.
In fact, the Democrat even recently filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety, claiming that the department has unlawfully denied his open records request for documents related to the massacre. He said he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before he’d receive any records, but told Y'all-itics he refused to do so.
"I think that what you'll find [in those documents] is chaos," Gutierrez says. "I think what you'll find on DPS bodycams is just simply chaos. Nobody following anybody's orders."
Gutierrez also recently attended the Senate Special Committee hearings on Uvalde, and even though he wasn’t named to the committee, he says he was allowed to ask some questions.
"I can send you the 20 minutes of cross-examination where the chairman tells me that this isn’t a deposition," he says. "Well, hell yes it is. It's more than a deposition. It needs to be a full-scale examination of what went wrong so that law enforcement never makes these mistakes in Dallas or Houston or Austin or rural Texas ever, ever again.”
The senator says, during those hearings, lawmakers learned there were 91 state troopers at Robb Elementary -- a figure making up roughly one quarter of all responding officers. And, he says, they learned that no radios worked inside the building -- not for DPS, for sheriff’s deputies, for city police or for school district officers.
It’s been more than a month since the tragedy, and the senator still gets choked up at times when discussing what happened.
It's because of what he’s seen, and the emotional conversations he’s had, that he says he’ll spend the rest of his career talking about the incident and gun reform.
Gutierrez says he hopes that, when enough people have seen what he has and the devastating consequences of gun violence can no longer be ignored, there will be a breakthrough.
“There has to be a moment in this country where we have what Emmett Till's mother had, which was a strength to show the world her son and what those men had done to her son," he says. "I saw seven kids -- seven little girls -- in coffins."