Texas AFT Protest targets Sen. Cruz for being an obstacle to popular gun-safety measures and a proponent of arming more teachers

Abbott announces new steps for school safety that ignore gun legislation

Zeph Capo stands on the steps of the federal building downtown Austin and speaks to a crowd of marchers with signs and reporters with cameras
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo rallies a call to stop gun violence on the steps of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office building.

A crowd of teachers and union leaders marched to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office in downtown Austin Tuesday to deliver a message: We need to start now with legislation that will make it harder for shooters to arm themselves and attack our children.

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo led the march to the state Capitol, where protestors observed a moment of silence, and Capo laid flowers on a memorial to the 19 students and two teachers killed at the Uvalde elementary school. “What we saw last session at the Texas Capitol was that they actually made this easier to happen,” Capo told marchers.

Capo, accompanied by two children with signs that read “What about my right to life?” and “AR Access = more dead people,” then delivered a letter signed by teachers urging federal legislation to address gun violence. The American Federation of Teachers has been fighting for measures outlined in its joint report with EveryTown, including expanding background checks to all gun sales, implementing extreme risk legislation (red flag laws), increasing the age to 21 to purchase both handguns and rifles, beefing up secure-storage laws, funding threat assessment and security programs, and increasing funding for counselors and mental health services. “When someone can walk into a gun store on their eighteenth birthday and legally buy an assault rifle, something is clearly wrong in Texas,” Capo said.

Protestor holds sign with caricature of Ted Cruz saying, "Let's not go into politics." A report card at right gives A's for protecting guns and taking NRA money, but F's for protecting children and having human decency.

Texas AFT targeted Cruz because he has actively promoted arming teachers instead of looking for common ground on commonsense legislation. Texas law already has provisions for armed school staff—the marshal and guardian programs—but Texas AFT is firmly against expanding these programs because research has shown they are dangerous and ineffective.

Cruz’s other talking point has been a call for single-entry and single-exit schools. Campuses across Texas already have implemented single-entry doors—with various security measures—although there are obvious safety concerns about a single exit. Newest reporting out of Uvalde notes the door accessed by the shooter was supposed to lock automatically when it closed but failed to do so.

Gov. Abbott ignores calls for special session on gun legislation and instead announces security spot checks, special legislative committees

Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent response to the shooting has been to ignore widespread calls for gun legislation and a special session to address gun violence. Instead, Abbott directed the House speaker and lieutenant governor in the Senate to form special committees to look at issues around mental health, social media, police training, and firearm safety. Additionally, he directed the Texas School Safety Center to do unannounced audits of campuses to check their security. (State law currently requires regular audits at least once in a three-year period.) 

Today, House Speaker Dade Phelan responded by forming an Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting. “The fact we still do not have an accurate picture of what exactly happened in Uvalde is an outrage,” Phelan said in a news release. “Every day, we receive new information that conflicts with previous reports, making it not only difficult for authorities to figure out next steps, but for the grieving families of the victims to receive closure.” Phelan also expanded interim charges of two House committees to address the governor’s directive.

On the Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced on Wednesday the formation of a special committee as directed by the governor. Patrick appointed eight Republicans and three Democrats to the committee, and he notably left Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, off the committee. Sen. Guitierrez has publicly called for Gov. Abbott to convene a special session in order to pass meaningful legislation to address gun violence. Patrick requested that the committee hold a hearing on June 23 or a date shortly after.

While these are worthwhile pieces addressing school safety, they are missing what a majority of Texans and Americans are supporting and demanding—sensible laws to put limitations on access to dangerous guns.

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