After responding to Uvalde shooting, Texas senator wants to make it easier to prosecute law enforcement

Families of victims of the Uvaldi school shooting gather on Jan. 1. 24, 2023, at a press conference, state senators. Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, has introduced new legislation targeting the massacres in 2022. Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune

“Texas senators want to make it easier to prosecute law enforcement after response to Uvalde shooting fails” originally published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization , to inform and engage with Texans on public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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State Senator Uvalde’s representative, Roland Gutierrez, said Tuesday that he is leading legislation that would make it easier for families of victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting to sue the state and police over the lax enforcement response.

The San Antonio Democrat and other Democratic senators have introduced four new pieces of legislation aimed at enhancing gun safety and law enforcement accountability. The news was released at a press conference, where they were joined by several families of the victims.

“We’re not asking for the moon and stars. We’re looking for commonsense solutions,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez introduced Senate Bill 575 to end qualified immunity for police officers, a judicial doctrine that protects government officials from liability for constitutional violations. The doctrine has gained national attention in recent years because it is often used to protect law enforcement from prosecution in cases of excessive force. He said ending qualified immunity would make it easier for families of victims of the Uvaldi shooting to seek damages after law enforcement’s erroneous response to the Uvaldi school shooting, in which hundreds of police raids school, but has not confronted the shooter in more than a year. Hour.

The bill is accompanied by Senate Resolution 12, which he co-authored with other Democratic senators, which “authorizes” families of victims of the Uvaldi shooting to sue the state and its agencies.

“I support law enforcement 100%, but under no circumstances should they [allowed] What happened that day,” Gutierrez said. “They let these kids down for 77 minutes because of a lack of leadership — under no circumstances should they be let go without making it up to someone else. No amount of money can get their children back. But there should be justice, so today is about justice. “

Gutierrez said he plans to file a total of about 20 bills related to the Yuvaldi shooting.

The Texas Rangers’ criminal investigation into the Uvalde school shooting is still ongoing. Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell said in early January that she did not expect to receive a final report for several more months.

Black lawmakers in the Texas legislature had previously sought to end the conditional immunity law in 2021, a sweeping move following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. part of the reform proposal. The effort failed.

Additionally, Gutierrez and other Democrats seek to pass Senate Bill 574 to create a compensation fund for victims of school violence, not just school shootings. The money would come from a new tax on retail sales of guns and ammunition in Texas, they said.

The Democratic state senator also introduced Unanimous Senate Resolution 11, calling on Congress to repeal the Protect the Legal Trade in Arms Act, which allows families of gun manufacturers to sue them for their advertising practices.

Gutierrez had previously tabled three Uvalde-related bills in November, the first day lawmakers could introduce legislation for the 2023 session.

Among them, Senate Bill 144 proposes “extreme risk protection orders” to keep firearms away from those who pose a danger to others and themselves. Senate Bill 146 would create a $300 million compensation fund for victims of shootings that would pay out $7.7 million to each victim’s immediate family or family member. It will also pay $2.1 million for each survivor of serious physical injury and $250,000 for survivors of mental or emotional disabilities.

Most notably, Senate Bill 145 proposes raising the minimum age limit for purchasing or renting firearms from 18 to 21 — a key proposal pushed by victims’ families and Texas Democrats . The shooter in the Uvalde shooting had just turned 18 when he bought two AR-15-style rifles, which he then used in the massacre.

Without the support of top Republicans, the move is doomed to fail. Government Greg Abbott has repeatedly said last year that raising the age limit to buy an assault rifle to 21 would be “unconstitutional” following a recent court ruling. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) also voiced opposition to the idea at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival, reiterating earlier this month that the House may not have the votes to support it.

“All I know is that, given that I can count the votes, I told the Uvaldi family very candidly, ‘I don’t want to mislead you guys. I just want to tell you that this is where the Texas House of Representatives ballot is,'” Phelan said on Jan. 17. day said. 12.

But families of the victims who attended Tuesday’s news conference reiterated the need for stronger gun controls in the state.

“The age limit should be raised to 21 because the breakdown of families is unbelievable,” said Felicha Martinez, mother of Xavier Lopez, a student killed in the shooting Say.

“Holidays are supposed to be filled with love, joy and happiness. Instead, I’m filled with emptiness. This is our first Christmas and my husband and I don’t sit with the kids and open presents. Instead, we’re locked in our room crying, Full of hurt and anger because the person who was the loudest person at Christmas is no longer around.”

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