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Experts testify about mental health, gun restrictions during Texas Senate special committee hearing

"Some children are a threat to society and what are we going to do about that?" one state senator asked.

AUSTIN, Texas — Testimony in the Texas Senate special committee hearing following the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde finished Wednesday.

The committee is tasked with taking what it heard from experts over the past two days and crafting legislation focused on preventing another school shooting.

Experts testified on several ways they felt the state could do a better job, which included the areas of mental health resources and gun control.

It still is not clear what new legislation will stop another school shooting from happening.

“Some children are a threat to society, and what are we going to do about that?” Texas Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-District 18) said. “If someone makes a threat, they might be gone for three days to a residential treatment center, maybe in a mental health hospital, but then they’re right back in that school system.”

Some experts noted a lack of state mental health resources as a factor to consider when discussing ways to intervene before a student becomes violent.

The state has already invested $300 million in mental healthcare services, including pouring money into the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine program.

Experts testified that more money, and many more professionals, are needed to adequately meet the needs of Texans with mental health issues.

Some legislators questioned if more mental health services would be of any benefit for someone unwilling to receive treatment.

“The question is when can you get to these type of shooters before like this last case,” Sen. Paul Bettencourt said. “There’s no question he became evil when you’re killing cats, shooting your grandmother you’re not going to be able to go to a trained psychologist and like that be cured.”

Others testified that stricter gun laws are needed at the state level to keep weapons from those who are mentally unstable.

“In every suicide I’ve worked, and murder-suicides as well, there have been areas where people have missed the warning signs,” Montgomery County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Judge Wayne Mack said.

It’s Mack’s job to go to the scene when someone in his precinct is dead.

“In Texas, you have to be 21 to smoke a cigarette,” Mack said. “You should have to be 21 to buy an AR-15 rifle or anything else. If we don’t have enough confidence in them smoking a cigarette, I think that we should look at this realistically.”

Outside of the hearings, the office of state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-District 19), whose district comprises Uvalde, sent a statement announcing the senator filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Texas Department of Public safety for allegedly violating open records laws.

Gutierrez claims DPS has not responded to his request for information, nor sought an opinion from the Texas Attorney General, regarding the Uvalde massacre by the deadline required by the statute.

Neither Gutierrez’s office nor the Texas Department of Public Safety responded to KHOU 11’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

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