#schoolsafety | Rep. Tony Gonzales: ‘Everything should be on the table’


In an interview with KENS 5, the congressman didn’t say directly whether he believes current gun laws contribute to mass shootings like the one in his district.

SAN ANTONIO — U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales represents Texas’ 23rd Congressional district, which includes the city of Uvalde, where 21 people were killed at Robb Elementary School on May 24.

Gonzales spoke with KENS 5 News anchors Phil Anaya and Alicia Neaves on Sunday, June 5. Here’s a transcript of the conversation:

KENS 5: A lot of people are looking for change and solutions to curb gun violence. I want to ask you, do you believe guns or gun laws as they are right now contribute to these terrible tragedies, or do you refuse the notion that guns have anything to do with these mass shootings? 

Rep. Tony Gonzales: You know, I think everything should be on the table. And I think what you’re going to see this week is going to be a very fiery debate in Washington and throughout the country, and rightfully so. You know, as a parent and as a parent, you know, I want to make sure my children are safe. All of us should want to make sure our children are safe. You know, I want to start also with what’s happening in Uvalde, and right now in Uvalde, we’re burying our babies, and the community is very sad, and we really want to heal, and we can’t heal when there’s all this outside, intrusive, kind of media and elsewhere, folks that aren’t really from the community that are constantly at that. 

What I’ll also say is, you know, I’m working with the superintendent and others, how do we get ready for school? I know school literally just kind of was released, but how do we get ready for school? How do we want to tear down Robb Elementary and rebuild it with something else? I’m working with private and public partners to do that.

RELATED: Many Uvalde residents want Robb Elementary torn down. The White House has offered to help.

A lot of people don’t realize there’s six other elementary schools in Uvalde. How do you get families prepared for that? One of the things I did is I sent a letter to the Department of Education as well as the Department of Justice asking for federal grants, emergency federal grants to help us get ready for this upcoming school year. 

KENS 5: Congressman, in the past, you voted against two gun control measures, one of which included background checks. So do you support stronger background checks and/or these red flag laws? 

Rep Gonzales: Yeah, I think everything’s on the table. This is what you’re going to see this week. This week in Washington, you’re going to see the Democrats roll out eight bills, and these bills largely have nothing to do with Uvalde. Look, HR 130, what it does is it federalizes how you store a firearm, nothing to do with Uvalde. HR 748, that federalizes gun safety locks, has nothing to do with Uvalde. 

RELATED: Families of Uvalde, Buffalo victims to testify in Congress

KENS 5: Sir, are you in favor of those? Are you in favor of any of those? 

Rep: Gonzales: I’m not in favor of any of those because they don’t help us solve the Uvalde crisis. 

KENS 5: What gun legislation are you in favor of that would help solve the problem? The gunman waited until he was 18 to buy these two AR-15s. Would you be in favor of increasing the age to buy a rifle like an AR-15 to 21? Is that something you’re open to? 

Rep Gonzales: You know what I would be in favor, I would love for us to talk about HR 2248. It’s led by Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida. What does this do? This empowers the Secret Service. So, right now the President of the United States gets deadly threats daily, and who takes care of him? The Secret Service, so why not have us empower the Secret Service to take care of our children? This is a bipartisan piece of legislation. That’s something that I would get behind. It’s called the Eagles Act. Right. Something else I would get behind would be the Alex and Luke Act. This is a piece of legislation that was basically created by a father of one of the victims of the Parkland shooting, and what does this do? It creates a federal clearinghouse. Once again, a bipartisan piece of legislation. These aren’t making the conversations up there. Because what if I told you, Phil, they didn’t want to solve this, the politicians want us to fight one another and get nowhere. 

KENS 5: I think people want answers, and they’re trying to get answers. Nobody’s trying to divide, including the media, we just want to ask these questions. But Congressman, we are running out of time. We do appreciate you coming on and talking to us about this issue. And of course, our condolences remain with everybody in Uvalde. Thank you, Congressman.

Rep. Gonzales: Thank you for that. I’d love to talk about mental health as well. I think it’s an area that will bring people together.

Last week, Congressman Gonzales spoke to KENS 5 about a conversation he had with President Biden, who visited Uvalde to speak to the families of victims:

Rep Gonzales: “If you have five minutes with the president, what are you going to ask? That’s what I had yesterday. And what I asked for, I asked for three things, in particular, for my community. I asked for a mental health hospital that’s $25 million. I was able to secure $2 million last year. I need $23 million. I asked for $13.5 million for a radio system where all responders can talk to one another. This is important. There’s so much misinformation going on because not all the responders were on the same channel. But you have firefighters. You had all these other areas. The other thing I asked for was another emergency center. To your point, as far as the politics in it, this is very important because what’s going to happen is they want to divide us. This is a uniting moment.”

RELATED: US Rep. Tony Gonzales on gun control after Uvalde: ‘I believe in the Constitution’

The Uvalde community has experienced deep trauma, especially the children who survived and the families of the 19 students and two teachers who did not. Mental healthcare experts say that it is vitally important to provide help immediately after a traumatic event like this.

RELATED: Resources for people affected by the Uvalde school shooting

The Ecumenical Center has responded to mass shootings in Sutherland Springs, El Paso and Santa Fe, bringing those critical resources and keeping them there.

“We need to be here to provide counseling from licensed professionals, whether they’re LPC, clinical social workers or psychologists, we have all of the above specialties,” said CEO Mary Beth Fisk. “For sure, those who work with pediatric patients through adults and families of those credentials here on the ground and will continue to serve them. We do have some limited resources in the psychiatric side of things, but we do certainly hope there’ll be additional resources. But the first line is going in and being able to be present with the families, to offer them comfort and support, and then to begin doing some of that deeper work in trauma recovery in the days and weeks to come.”

RELATED: ‘You’ve just got to try’ | Trae tha Truth, Ecumenical Center offering mental healthcare to those traumatized by Uvalde shooting

Many other groups are working to provide counseling and support. SJRCbelong.org has a vetted list of resources for the Uvalde community.

RELATED: Resource list connects Uvalde to help, donors to organizations

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for the City of Uvalde, and said his office has provided an initial $5 million investment to opening a family resiliency center in the south Texas community. 

RELATED: Abbott takes first steps towards establishment of ‘family resiliency center’ in Uvalde

It’s unclear at this point what the total cost for the center will be, nor did the state provide a timeline on when it might open or where it hopes other sources of funding come from. 

When it does open, however, Abbott’s statement says the family resilience center will be a hub providing community resources for those affected by the Robb Elementary tragedy, including “psychological first aid, crisis counseling and behavioral health services.” 

Similar centers were set up in the west Texas communities of El Paso and Odessa after mass shootings unfolded there in August 2019.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a statement in the wake of the shooting, calling for change on gun control.

“We say the shooting in Uvalde could have been avoided because the nation has failed to act. Littleton, Newtown, Parkland, Blacksburg, Orlando, Las Vegas and most recently Buffalo have been the scenes of mass shootings over the years. Each time, nothing is done, and another tragedy ensues. We should all be free to send our children to schools, to shop for groceries or attend events without the danger of gun violence.

RELATED: Mental health expert disagrees with Gov. Abbott’s assertion that any school shooter has a mental illness

Mental illness is not the problem. It is incorrect and harmful to link mental illness and gun violence, which is often the case following a mass shooting. Pointing to mental illness doesn’t get us closer as a nation to solving the problem and doing so leads to discrimination and stigma against those with mental illness — who are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. People across the globe live with mental illness, but only in the U.S. do we have an epidemic of senseless and tragic mass shootings.

Gun violence is a public health crisis. We urgently need common sense approaches to end gun violence in this country. We all want an end to this senseless violence and trauma, so we need to come together as a nation to find meaningful and sensible solutions.

We are here, ready to help the nation address its trauma. You can connect to your local NAMI. If anyone needs to reach out for resources or help, the NAMI HelpLine is available at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) — open Mon-Fri from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET.”

RELATED: How to help the Uvalde community affected by the school shooting

Texas ranks last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of access to mental health care, according to the organization Mental Health America.


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