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Hundreds flood the Texas Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

Hundreds rallied at the steps of the Texas Capitol on February 28, 2023 to call for gun reforms.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Hundreds rallied at the steps of the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to call for changes to gun laws.

From the steps of the Texas Capitol, a crowd cheered Caitlyne Gonzales on as she stepped up to the microphone on Tuesday.

“I shouldn’t have to be here speaking — I’m only 10 years old,” Gonzales said. “But I am because my friends have no voice no more.”

This was not the first time the fourth-grader spoke at an event. Since May 24, it’s something she has grown accustomed to.

“I was in my awards ceremony that day before the shooting,” Gonzales recalled, referring to the moments preceding the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

She told the crowd she heard gunshots as soon as she returned to her classroom.

“He wobbled my — he wobbled my —,” Gonzales said before breaking down in tears. “He wobbled my door knob … he shot at my door, and a bullet went around my head.”

Gonzales survived what would become Texas’ deadliest school shooting, but 19 of her classmates and two teachers were killed.

She was one of hundreds of people who showed up at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday and chanted “Do something!” at state lawmakers.

The group is calling for changes to the state’s gun laws, like increasing the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon and the implementation of so-called “red flag” laws. Those measures allow a judge to temporarily confiscate the weapons of people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The proposals, however, don’t have the support of Republicans in the Texas Legislature.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, has said raising the minimum age to purchase an assault-style rifle to 21 just doesn’t have the votes in his chamber. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott has called the proposal unconstitutional.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said Texas Democrats in the House and the Senate have filed bills that would accomplish many of the things gun safety advocates and gun violence survivors have been calling for. Gutierrez’s district includes Uvalde.

But on Tuesday, Gutierrez blamed the state’s Republican majority and Gov. Greg Abbott for the lack of movement on gun proposals.

“This man can’t do the bare minimum to help our children time after time and massacre after massacre,” Gutierrez told the crowd. “How many kids have to die? … Not one more!”

Abbott’s office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Since the start of Texas’ legislative session, Gutierrez has held a series of press conferences flanked by families of the Uvalde and Santa Fe High School shooting victims to draw attention to his gun safety proposals.

He said Tuesday’s rally was not the end of their fight.

“It’s a day where we begin a war of words and ideas,” Gutierrez said. “Because our ideas are better than theirs, our ideas save children's lives."

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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