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Texas House mass violence committee holds first hearing

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The Texas House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety held their first public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Committee members heard invited testimony from officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). 

The DPS officials said they have only begun monitoring online expressions of hateful and incendiary rhetoric recently. Much of the data needed to make prudent policy decisions to prevent future mass violence incidents is not available or is incomplete, according to the testimony. 

One of the areas where data sorely lacking is gun thefts. In Texas, an estimated 18,000 firearms are reported stolen each year, according to the Governor’s office. 

However, because Texas doesn’t have a law requiring gun owners to report the theft of a firearm, law enforcement has no clear idea of how many guns are actually stolen.

DPS Executive Director Steve McCraw was asked about the greatest threats in Texas relating to hateful violent ideologies.

In another exchange, House Speaker pro tem Joe Moody (D-El Paso) suggested closing loopholes in protective orders for domestic violence cases.

State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) asked McCraw if law enforcement agencies are coordinating with social media companies to prevent radicalization while respecting First Amendment rights.

DPS officials replied in the affirmative when asked by Rep. Charlie Geren (R- Fort Worth) if lying on federal forms like background checks should be a criminal offense in state law.

The committee didn’t allow public testimony, and it remains to be seen if there will be public input in future hearings. Many activists, including representatives from the pro-gun control group Moms Demand Action, were in the audience.

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