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Texas Coalition Calls Gun Violence a Public Health Issue

A memorial for 26 members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs killed in last Sunday’s shooting is set in a field across from the church. Photo: Olsen/GettyImages

by Mark Richardson

AUSTIN, Texas — Another deadly mass shooting, this time in a south Texas town, has some state legislators seeking to recast the debate over gun violence as a public health issue.

At a news conference by the group Texas Gun Sense, lawmakers and others said the killing of 26 people by a lone gunman in Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio, is partly the result of what they call an “anything goes” attitude toward gun laws in Texas.

Rep. Nicole Collier, a Democrat from Fort Worth, said it’s time to get beyond the National Riffle Association’s talking points and take a common sense approach to dealing with the problem.

“This pattern of death goes far beyond mental health, and we must begin looking at this as a public health matter,” Collier said. “Calling this latest act of gun violence a mental health problem is a distraction.”

Collier and others have said the response by lawmakers to the Sutherland Springs shootings needs to include ideas such as universal background checks, prosecuting those who lie on background checks, requiring licenses to open-carry long guns, and conducting an in-depth study of gun violence in Texas and across the country.

Coalition member Nicole Golden, Austin group leader for Moms Demand Action, called on lawmakers to pass tougher restrictions on persons convicted of domestic violence.

“We know that the Sutherland Springs shooter was a domestic abuser,” Golden said. “The bill would protect victims of domestic abuse by prohibiting gun purchase and possession by abusive dating partners, and prohibiting gun purchase and possession by any person convicted of a stalking crime.”

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, a Democrat from Austin, put forth a list for her fellow lawmakers of 10 solutions for addressing gun violence.

“This isn’t about the Second Amendment. Nobody’s trying to take away any law-abiding person’s guns,” Hinojosa said. “This is about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”

She said the goal is not to get rid of firearms, but rather to find ways to institute reasonable gun regulations aimed at preventing mass shootings and saving lives.

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