After two mass shootings happened in Texas just weeks apart, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has asked a special committee to begin studying issues related to gun violence.
"Words alone will not deliver the bold solutions Texas needs in order to defeat the violence that has become far too commonplace in our state," Bonnen said in a statement Wednesday. "The Texas House is putting words into action by forming this committee."
Bonnen directed the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety to "evaluate options for strengthening enforcement measures for current laws that prevent the transfer of firearms to felons and other persons prohibited by current law from possessing firearms." Those options could include expanding background checks to stranger-to-stranger gun sales, an issue that has received increased attention after a mass shooting in Odessa over Labor Day weekend.
The Odessa gunman, who fatally shot seven people and injured 22, reportedly obtained his rifle in a private person-to-person sale, which allowed him to avoid being subject to a background check. State officials have said that the shooter had previously tried to buy a gun in 2014, but failed his background check.
Bonnen also asked the committee on Wednesday to "evaluate current protocols and extreme risk indicators used to identify potential threats."
Bonnen appointed 13 members — seven Republicans and six Democrats — to the committee, notably tapping state Rep. Drew Darby, a San Angelo Republican, to serve as chair of the panel. Darby is allegedly on a list of 10 GOP members who conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan has accused Bonnen of targeting in the 2020 election.
State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, will serve as vice chair. Other members on the committee — César Blanco and Joe Moody, both Democrats from El Paso, along with Brooks Landgraf, an Odessa Republican — have grappled with recent mass shooting tragedies in their communities.
Bonnen's news comes a day after he, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican who heads the Senate, announced the formation of the select committees in their respective chambers. It also comes as all but a few House Democrats sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to call a special legislative session to address gun violence. Various Democrats — including Blanco and Moody — were scheduled to host regional news conferences around the state to amplify their party's call for a special session later Wednesday morning.
The committee is required to submit a preliminary assessment to Bonnen within 90 days of its creation, according to the speaker's office. It also must produce periodic progress reports and submit a final report.