Preyor-Johnson: Gonzales could be key to preventing gun violence – MMHPI – Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
Tags Uvalde
topics In The News Preyor-Johnson: Gonzales could be key to preventing gun violence

Preyor-Johnson: Gonzales could be key to preventing gun violence

This article was published by the San Antonio Express-News on May 25, 2023.

As time moves forward from the Uvalde massacre that stole the lives of 19 fourth graders and two teachers at Robb Elementary one year ago, it would be easier to look away and distance ourselves, but that is not how to cultivate change and prevent gun violence.

Change requires collaboration and political concessions, not digging in one’s heels.

Over the past year, I have sometimes questioned if U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents San Antonio and Uvalde, was committed to using his power to answer the call of gun reform from Uvalde families and their advocates. I have been disappointed with Gonzales in his resistance to gun safety reforms, but I have come to see him as a key figure in our national conversation about guns.

Gonzales has not supported gun safety reforms, but he was the only Texas House Republican to support the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was the most significant tightening of federal firearm laws in decades. The measure reflected small progress. Yet, hardliners blasted Gonzales and Texas Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who helped craft this modest legislation. This is the political environment Gonzales operates in.

Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the United States, and mass shootings are a small part of these fatalities. Once, during a meeting with our Editorial Board, I told Gonzales I didn’t believe he had done enough to stop another school shooter.

I still believe he could do more.

On Wednesday, the anniversary of the Uvalde shooting, I attended a roundtable Gonzales helped organize to address school security and mental health to reduce school violence.

The event, held in Washington, D.C., included a diverse group of attendees, some of whom joined online, including Arnulfo Reyes, the surviving Robb Elementary teacher who was shot twice and lost all 11 of the students in his classroom.

Earier this month, Gonzales and U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., formed a bipartisan school safety and security caucus to inform future policies.

During the roundtable, Moskowitz spoke of progress since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

As a state lawmaker in Florida, Moskowitz championed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, the most comprehensive gun violence prevention, school safety and mental health legislation ever passed in Florida. Lawmakers in Florida achieved what Texas lawmakers have failed to do: raising the age to buy guns from 18 to 21 and instituting red flag laws. The legislation also provided millions in funding for mental health counselors and a school resource officer in every high school.

Everyone Gonzales and Moskowitz included in the roundtable has the power to make a difference: Gary Patterson, Uvalde CISD superintendent; Brian Woods, retired Northside ISD superintendent; Richard Grill, Sabinal ISD superintendent; Mary Beth Fisk, CEO and executive director at the Ecumenical Center for Education, Counseling and Health; Julie Kaplow, executive vice president for the Trauma and Grief Programs and Policy Center at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; BJ Wagner, senior vice president of Public Health and Safety at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Jimmy Graham, CEO of Able Shepherd and Fellow on Community Safety at the Centennial Institute; Lina Alathari, chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center; and Max Schachter, founder and executive director of Safe Schools for Alex.

One by one, they shared their experiences and advice. The event showed how Gonzales could be key to meaningful change.

Gonzales said the caucus will meet throughout the 118th Congress and beyond as a way to generate comprehensive, bipartisan solutions. He told me he’s already working with his team to use what he learned.

Change can’t come soon enough.

On the anniversary of Uvalde, mass shootings are happening at a record pace.

This story is available on the San Antonio Express-News’ website here.