By Taralinda Willis
In the months following the two mass shootings in southern Texas in August last year, there were no significant changes in gun policy in U.S. federal law. Meanwhile, a slate of Texas laws passed during the 2019 legislative session took effect on Sept. 1, all of which loosened restrictions on guns.
But looking at what happens at the state government level does not tell the whole story about the gun policy debate in Texas. Throughout the state, several cities and towns have taken a different approach to gun policy in the wake of the two mass shootings in August. Many of them have issued statements calling for action at the state level to enact common-sense gun violence prevention measures, and they’ve also taken local action through assembling task forces and proposing voluntary gun buybacks.
Many of these discussions don’t get coverage in the local press, but a quick search of the CurateLOCAL database can bring you right to the minutes of these discussions, help you take the pulse of the local community on the issues, and help you find out about the next opportunity for public comment.
Here are three examples pulled from meeting minutes of cities throughout Texas:
On Aug. 22, Austin established a task force to study gun violence and put some teeth into an effort to collect more data about gun violence. The minutes from that meeting record the councilmembers’ different perspectives on the goals of that task force, such as this passionate passage from Councilmember Alison Alter, the sponsor of the proposal:
“Due to the restrictions passed at the state and federal levels, we have limited tools to solve the gun violence crisis...Some may say a task force is unnecessary because we know what we need to do. Yes, it's true we know exactly what needs to be done at the federal level and the state level to have the greatest impact, such as finally requiring universal background checks on all gun sales and implementing extreme risk protective order laws. Those all require the cooperation of state and federal government. But I believe we can and must do more at the local level.”
The meeting minutes from the City of San Marcos city council meeting on August 20, 2019 show how many residents vehemently resist even a small change in gun policy. During the 30-minute period for public comment, 10 people spoke out about a proposal to ban the concealed carry of guns at local government meetings. The proposal eventually failed.
One resident’s opinions proved that you don’t have to be a gun owner to show up to a meeting to defend gun rights:
“Sara Lee Underwood-Myers...stated that she is floored that the Hays County Government Center security always makes her take her fingernail file out to her car. She stated that she is not licensed to carry. She stated that we have to continue with our right to carry and it is bad policy to pass.”
At a meeting on Sept. 18 (PDF), the San Antonio city council passed a voluntary buyback program. The minutes give a glimpse of the decision-makers’ goals for the program:
“The CCR suggested that the program allow individuals to anonymously turn in firearms without fear of legal repercussions while also developing a public awareness campaign to appeal to residents in communities with a high concentration of gun violence...Mayor Nirenberg noted the resolution passed by the City Council to reduce gun violence and stated that any step is better than none.”