The Sandy Hook tragedy has catapulted the issue of gun control to the forefront of American consciousness as the U.S. grapples with how to prevent future mass shootings.
Jason Villalba, a GOP representative-elect, is introducing legislation he believes will accomplish just that in Texas schools.
Villalba, whose two young daughters attend schools in the Dallas Independent School District, according to The Dallas Morning News, will file the “Protection of Texas Children Act” in the state House later this week.
“We need to talk very frankly about how we can protect our children if the unthinkable should occur,” Villalba said in a statement. “By providing our schools with the option to have a trained school marshal to act as the last line of defense, we are empowering ISDs with the ability to protect our children and faculty against those who would seek to destroy human life.”
While the bill would not require school districts to have a school marshal, in the way planes have air marshals, it would lay out the training and certification standards required of the faculty member appointed to carry the firearm, and it would also determine the circumstances in which lethal force could be used by a school marshal.
Victoria De Francesco Soto, a senior analyst for pollster Latino Decisions, as well as an NBC Latino and MSNBC contributor, says that she sees Villalba’s legislation going over very well in Texas.
“In most places it would seem very out there, like a fringe amendment,” she says. “But in Texas Democrats carry guns. They may advocate gun control but the gun culture is decidedly different in Texas.”
She says this pro-gun climate means the legislation will be seen as exactly what is needed post-Sandy Hook.
“What he’s doing is putting into action what the gun rights activists have been saying to deflect from the Newtown incident,” she added.
While Villalba went the route of proposing legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting, Texas Governor Rick Perry cautioned the national government against over-reaching in its wake.
“One of the things that I hope we don’t want to see from the federal government is a knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they can come in and think they know the answer,” he said.
De Francesco Soto says a lot of attention is given to the assault weapons ban nationally but that each state has a different policy when it comes to guns, noting that in Texas you can be a felon but after five years of release, legally acquire a firearm. She says states may feel empowered to make changes if the issue of gun control languishes, in much the same way states like Arizona and Alabama moved to action on immigration absent federal reform.
“At the state level, if there is a stalemate then we may see states take up their own initiatives,” she says.
Villalba added that the trained personnel would only be known to the principal, law enforcement and certain district administrators.
“This legislation will give schools the ability to protect the well-being of children attending Texas public schools,” he said. “Children and their parents need to feel safe in our classrooms in order to be able to learn and grow to their greatest potential.”
So what are the chances the legislation is voted into law?
“In theory there is a good chance of it passing,” De Francesco Soto says.
“It’s not a Republican super majority, but it’s a majority Republican House and the Senate is majority Republican too.”