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State Senators Travel To Odessa In An Effort To Find Ways To Prevent Future Mass Shootings

By Mitch Borden

On Thursday, the Texas Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence And Community Safety held a public hearing at Odessa College. The state lawmakers listened to Permian Basin residents and local officials suggestions on how to prevent mass shootings — like the one that happened in Odessa late August.

The conversation lasted more than six hours and covered issues that included logistics for first responders, community values and mental health. The gathered senators — including Midland-Odessa's State Senator Kel Seliger — spoke with Midland and Odessa's mayors, police chiefs, and the district attorneys about what happened over labor day weekend when a gunman tore through Odessa killing seven and wounding over 20 people.

When pressed for possible ways to prevent or deal with future attacks, Midland County’s District Attorney Laura Nodolf told the panel of lawmakers that there wasn’t a singular thing that could stop another shooting from happening.

She pointed to all of the topics the panel had covered in the meeting, saying, “We’ve talked about mental health, guns, mass shooting communication, transportation. Everything else — it is such a broad topic.”

When the Senators opened up the hearing to the public, some residents stepped forward to call on lawmakers to support more firearm regulations.

Carla Byrne, the sister of Odessa Shooting victim Joseph Griffith, pleaded with state lawmakers to not let her brother's death be in vain.

Byrne emotionally described who her brother was and then ended her testimony by stating policies that could prevent more mass violence shouldn't be a partisan issue.

"It’s not about Republicans. It’s not about Democrats. It’s about humanity, and with that, I urge you to recommend a comprehensive background check law and red flag laws in the committee's final report."

Other local residents in the crowd passionately stood up to oppose any call for gun control measures. Many urged the lawmakers to pass legislation, like constitutional carry, that would further reduce firearm regulation in Texas.

The senate’s select committee did not come to any conclusions at the end of the Odessa public hearing. This month, there will be two more public meetings in El Paso and Austin.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.