Teachers union leader calls for immediate action on gun legislation, stresses the importance of our educators’ roles in promoting healing with the new school year

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: August 7, 2019
CONTACT: Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

The president of the Houston Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate Texas AFT is calling for more restrictions on guns, particularly access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton sent an ominous message that the epidemic of gun violence continues and puts our schools and children in ongoing danger.

“Halting widespread gun violence will take a comprehensive approach that addresses the need to halt the hate speech spewed from some of our politicians, to provide more mental health services, and most importantly, to get serious about restricting access to military-style guns,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “We are living in a state with leadership that has ignored calls for common-sense gun legislation, and that inaction puts our communities and our schoolchildren in constant danger.”

The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution in 2018 calling for “bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, background checks and other vetting processes, revoking the federal Dickey Amendment (which has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun-related deaths), and rescinding the gun industry’s immunity, while also opposing wrong-headed and counterproductive ideas like arming faculty and staff.”

“While our state Legislature made significant progress last spring to support more mental health initiatives and services in our schools, and provide funding for more security, it did nothing to address access to guns,” Capo said. “Incredibly, the only response to the need for gun legislation was to expand the program to arm teachers, which isn’t a viable solution.”

Capo also stressed that teachers will play a crucial role in the coming weeks helping students deal with the stress, uncertainty and fear of attending school in the wake of shootings at Santa Fe, Parkland and Sandy Hook. “We’re reminding our educators that students will be looking to them to make their classrooms safe and inspiring places to learn,” he said, “Our teachers and other school employees are on the front lines of making sure our schools are inclusive and welcoming to all kids, and they will be the eyes and ears in our classrooms to prevent bullying and support kids who show signs of needing emotional support or mental health services.”

Texas AFT has provided members with a variety of resources–including training and curriculum–to help students deal with trauma and stress. “Our union will be assisting our school employees throughout the state to ensure they have the support they need in making our schools safe and welcoming,” Capo said.