Families of victims of the Uvalde massacre call for legislation amid increased gun violence

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As more Americans have been killed in mass shootings in recent days, the parents and families of children killed in a Uvalde school shooting eight months ago pleaded Tuesday for Texas lawmakers to pass “common sense gun laws” so kids can “stop living in the NRA’s United States.”

The parents gathered at the Texas State Capitol for a press conference during which Senator Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, announced bills he has filed and other plans for this year’s legislative session that begins this month and ends May 29.

They were joined by the parent of a student who died in the 2018 high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.

“Pay attention to these common sense gun laws that our children and the future need to live in the United States of America and stop living in the United States of the NRA,” said Velma Lisa Duran of San Antonio, referring to the National Rifle Association, the most powerful gun lobby group in the country.

Duran’s sister, Irma Garcia, was one of two teachers and 19 killed in the May 4, 2022 shooting in Uvalde. Garcia’s husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack two days later.

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The Uvalde massacre was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history and one of the deadliest in the country. The law enforcement response has sparked investigations and outrage as officers waited more than an hour to enter the building to stop the shooter.

Their calls for action from the family and lawmakers come on the heels of deadly weekend shootings in California that left 18 people dead, a deadly shooting in Iowa killed two, and a mass shooting in Baton Rouge injured 12 since Saturday night. On Tuesday, there were 39 mass shootings so far this year, NBC News reported.

Felicia Martinez, mother of Xavier Lopez who was killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, tries to hold back tears after speaking at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol with Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez in Austin on January 24. , 2023. (Eric Gay/TSTIME)

The grief of the losses for the Uvalde families was visible in tears, sobs and anger, as some of the family members made statements during the conference in Austin, which was live-streamed. Parents carried pictures of their children during the press conference and wore T-shirts and badges with their names and pictures.

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Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Texas Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, introduced two bills and two resolutions. One resolution calls on Congress to revoke protections for gun manufacturers from lawsuits and another allows families to sue the state or its aid agencies for failing to stop the gunman.

In one of the bills, Gutierrez proposes a Violence and Compensation Fund for victims’ families and victims of school violence, which would be funded by taxes of five cents per round of ammunition and $50 per firearm.

The fund would pay $1 million per person killed, $250,000 per person seriously injured, $100,000 for those with mental injuries, and $50,000 for those with minor physical injuries. Gutierrez said the federal excise tax on guns purchased in Texas each year is about $97 million. “I think we can have some of that action,” he said.

The second bill would end qualified immunity that protects police officers in the performance of their duties and complicates efforts by Uvalde’s parents and families to hold officers responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.

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Gutierrez said he is submitting the legislation individually, rather than as part of a package that addresses a wide variety of gun and violence-related issues, to do them justice. In particular, the strategy could force votes on Uvalde-related legislation.

The Texas leadership and Republican-controlled legislature have been criticized for failing to tighten legislation following other mass shootings in the state, including the Santa Fe school shooting and the 2019 massacre at a Walmart in El Paso. which killed 23 people and injured 23.

Gutierrez plans to file other bills and parents plan to make more trips to the Capitol to lobby for their passage.

Some parents have called for the minimum age for buying assault weapons to be raised to 18 in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott has said this would be unconstitutional, based on court rulings. A few states have set the age limit at 21 to purchase long guns.

“This has to be the session where we do something. It can’t be the session where we have round tables. It can’t be the session where we have discussions. It should be the session where we do something about gun safety,” Gutierrez said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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