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O'Rourke amplifies calls for gun reform at San Antonio rally after Uvalde shooting

Democratic Candidate for Texas Governor Beto O'Rourke speaks to crowd of several hundred people in San Antonio on Saturday, June 6, 2022
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Democratic Candidate for Texas Governor Beto O'Rourke speaks to crowd of several hundred people in San Antonio on Saturday, June 4, 2022

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It’s been 11 days since a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, about 90 miles from San Antonio. Their funerals are taking place for the next two weeks.

Pressure is mounting on the state’s elected leaders to enact meaningful reform; among those, a request for a special session focused on gun violence.

As the parents, families, and community grieve over yet another mass shooting, politicians mull what changes can be made. Democrats are calling loudly for policies to make it harder for guns to make it into the hands of people who should not have them, but action on those pleas are at the behest of the state’s Republican controlled legislative, executive and judicial branches.

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, continued his push for reforms ranging from universal background checks, red flag warning laws, safe storage laws to what he calls ‘getting weapons of war off the streets’ in San Antonio on Saturday.

O’Rourke’s campaign held a rally at the Paper Tiger, a local music venue, after appearing at a “Stand with Uvalde” benefit event at Travis park earlier in the day alongside local Democrats and Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich.

Related: Coach Popovich to Texas lawmakers after Uvalde: 'Get off your ass. Do something.’

“I’m very proud of this community and its leaders for the way in which you have responded to this shooting in Uvalde,” O’Rourke told the Paper Tiger crowd. “You all have sent far more than your thoughts and prayers. You've sent resources. You sent money. You have traveled down to Uvalde,”

People gather at Beto O'Rourke's San Antonio rally on gun violence
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
People gather at Beto O'Rourke's San Antonio rally on gun violence

Texas has faced a series of mass shootings: five in just as many years. Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed in 2017; Santa Fe High School outside Houston saw 10 people killed in 2018; 23 people were shot to death at an El Paso Walmart in 2019; Not three weeks later, 8 more killed in Midland; and now the 19 children and two of the teachers in Uvalde.

“This is not caused by God. This is not a natural disaster. This is a problem of our own making,” O’Rourke said. “And that means that we have the power to change this and to prevent what is, in fact, predictable right here and right now,” he said.

One day after the Uvalde shooting, O’Rourke very publicly pointed the blame at incumbentslike Texas Governor Abbott disrupting a press conference at a Uvalde high school.

On Saturday, O'Rourke doubled down on the policies enacted in recent years that make gun accessibility easier, once again pointing at Abbott.

“I just want to give him credit where credit is due. He has taken action. He's made it easier for people to buy guns, loaded guns, and have them on our streets with no background check, no vetting, no training whatsoever, despite the pleas of law enforcement, sheriffs, police officers,” O’Rourke said on Saturday.

O'Rourke is just one of the many Texas Democrats calling for changes like a special legislative session. Governor Abbott has not entirely ruled out the possibility, however, the initial action taken was the creation of two special legislative committees in place of a special session.

“If I were governor, I would call a special session last week,” O’Rourke told reporters after the rally. “And on that session agenda would be universal background checks, extreme risk protection order so we can intervene before a shooting. We'd have safe storage laws so that guns kept in the home are secured, children cannot get their hands on them, and I would reach across the aisle to talk about how we get weapons of war out of our communities.”

O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, has made two previous notable runs for high office. In 2018, he unsuccessfully challenged Ted Cruz for one of Texas two Senate seats and then ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President. However, that bid did not make it to the Iowa Caucuses, as he pulled out of the race in 2019.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules