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Texas mass violence committee members receive death threats

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2016, file photo, Texas state Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, speaks in Brownsville, Texas. Nevarez, the vice chair of a new Texas House committee that's addressing issues related to gun violence says some of its Republican members have received death threats. Nevarez said Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, the lawmakers were targeted "by people who do not want to see any movement on gun issues."

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Top leaders of a new Texas House committee that is addressing issues related to gun violence in the wake of two local mass shootings say some of its Republican members have received death threats.

The threats mark the latest confrontation Republican lawmakers have faced by gun rights supporters in Texas, which already has some of the most permissive gun laws in the U.S.

Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevarez, the vice chairman of the panel, said the lawmakers were targeted "by people who do not want to see any movement on gun issues." Nevarez declined to comment Wednesday on who the lawmakers were and did not know if they reported the threats to law enforcement.

Republican state Rep. Drew Darby, who chairs the committee, told the San Angelo Standard-Times two committee members received death threats.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen formed the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety last week in response to two back-to-back mass shootings that occurred in Texas last month.

Bonnen said in a statement last week the committee will look at reducing mass violence through prevention strategies, giving state and local services to affected communities and technology solutions to better detect and prevent threats.

On Aug. 31, a gunman killed seven people and injured around two dozen others as he went on an hour-long rampage from Midland to Odessa, firing at random before being killed by police outside a movie theater. In El Paso four weeks earlier, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart, killing 22 people before being taken into custody.

Nevarez said he hopes the committee will get into the weeds on issues like background checks and so-called "red flag" laws to keep guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

The Democrat from Eagle Pass also said he would also like to discuss disallowing open carry of semi-automatic weapons. Texas became an open carry state in 2016, allowing people to openly carry firearms in pubic.

In April, a Texas gun rights advocate drove to Bonnen's home and that of two other Republican legislators he blamed for scuttling a proposal to carry firearms without a permit, prompting state troopers to monitor the House speaker's family residence.

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