Students overcome with grief after Friday's school shootings in Santa Fe, Texas. Will Arizona respond?
Students overcome with grief after Friday's school shootings in Santa Fe, Texas. Will Arizona respond?
Mohammad Mia/Houston Press

Arizona Activists, Democrats Call for Special Session After Texas School Shooting

Arizona activists who mobilized on gun violence after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February reacted to today's shooting in Texas with a call for a special legislative session on guns.

At least eight people were killed in a shooting at a high school in southeast Texas on Friday morning, according to the county sheriff.

The shooting took place at Santa Fe High School in the city of Santa Fe, about 40 miles from Houston. Officials said in a briefing that one suspect is in custody and one person of interest has been detained. Explosive devices were found in the high school, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

The Tragic Day in Photos

The Arizona chapter of March for Our Lives called for a special session immediately following the news in Texas. The Arizona Legislature adjourned on May 3 without passing a so-called "Safe Arizona Schools Plan" that included some restrictions on guns, despite the push by Governor Doug Ducey.

Jordan Harb, a 17-year-old student at Mountain View High School in Mesa and the co-founder of Arizona March for Our Lives, said that his classmates were grieving the students killed in today's shooting. Some cried, he said. But they're also frustrated.

"I felt grief and fear and shock, but I think what is different about this one is I felt anger," Harb said in an interview on Friday.

Despite their 15,000-strong march on the state Capitol on March 23 and a six-hour protest at the Capitol, the Texas incident shows that nothing has changed, Harb said.

"Even after all of that happened, eight people are still dead today," he said.

Harb said that the Arizona March for Our Lives chapter has started a GoFundMe page to donate to the survivors of the Santa Fe shooting. They will also hold a vigil for the victims on Monday night at the Arizona Capitol.

Students with March for Our Lives opposed Ducey's NRA-endorsed plan. The governor sought to increase the number of police officers in schools and allow courts to restrict access to guns if they determined that an individual was a danger to others.

The student-activists said the plan didn't go far enough, but they faced resistance in the Legislature, where lawmakers have consistently opposed restrictions on guns. Gun enthusiasts nationwide praise Arizona's laissez-faire firearms laws.

A weaker version of the school safety plan designed to appease Republicans passed the Senate, but it never got a vote in the House before the session ended amid the #RedForEd chaos.

The Arizona March for Our Lives chapter wrote on Twitter that politicians like Ducey "don’t have the guts to take action and listen to the very kids suffering in and out of our classrooms."

Led by survivors of the shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the national March for Our Lives organization has rallied to end gun violence via universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Democratic lawmakers joined the Arizona March for Our Lives students, pointedly asking Ducey to bring back legislators for a special session.

The House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios responded to the governor's tweet on the Santa Fe shooting, telling him "prayers are not enough."

"Please call us into special session so we can do some Legitimate gun violence prevention legislation," Rios wrote.

Martín Quezada, a liberal Democratic senator from District 29, echoed Rios in the call for a special session.

"It's time to elect a governor that understands he has the power to do more than just offer 'thoughts and prayers' and actually propose and enact laws that stand up to the #GunLobby and keep our communities safe," Quezada wrote on Twitter.

Daniel Scarpinato, a Ducey spokesperson, wrote in an email that passing the school safety plan remains a top priority of the governor.

"This plan was developed with parents, students, teachers, law enforcement and mental health experts at the table," Scarpinato wrote to Phoenix New Times. "It's disappointing that this plan was not passed by the Legislature this session, but the governor is committed to fighting for the common-sense reforms included in this comprehensive package. He encourages Republicans and Democrats to join in support. This is not a partisan issue."

Scarpinato hinted in an interview with the Arizona Republic earlier this week that the governor could renew the gun control debate "next session, if not sooner," a nod to a possible special session.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly said that they were devastated for Santa Fe and called on lawmakers to act to protect students.

According to a Washington Post analysis, this is the 16th shooting in 2018 so far during school hours.

The fear of being targeted in a school massacre is universal and something students have to deal with every day, Harb said.

"I think one thing that a lot of kids around the country all have in common is this underlying fear," Harb said. "We all share it no matter where we live in this country, so when we see a shooting like this happen, we all relate in a way."

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