SAN ANTONIO — When President Biden visited Uvalde on Sunday, he met with several lawmakers, including Congressman Tony Gonzales, whose District 23 includes the City of Uvalde.
Congressman Gonzales sat down with KENS 5 to talk about the president's visit.
"The conversation didn't start yesterday. It started when when the shooting happened," said Gonzales.
He said that when President Biden landed in Uvalde, the first thing the president said was that he didn't want to make anything political. "I thought he did a really good job with that. I thought he did a good job bringing the country together. You know, him and I do not agree on a lot of things policy wise, but to have the president of the United States show up to Uvalde, Texas meant a lot to the citizens, meant a lot to the people."
Gonzales said he was emotionally drained. But, going to Mass was "very uplifting" and he described the sense of comfort he felt.
KENS 5 asked Gonzales about gun control and if his previous post of voting "no" to two gun control measures in the House is still the same.
"If you have five minutes with the president, what are you going to ask? That's what I had yesterday. And what I asked for, I asked for three things, in particular, for my community. I asked for a mental health hospital that's $25 million. I was able to secure $2 million last year. I need $23 million. I asked for $13.5 million for a radio system where all responders can talk to one another. This is important. There's so much misinformation going on because not all the responders were on the same channel. But you have firefighters. You had all these other areas. The other thing I asked for was another emergency center. To your point, as far as the politics in it, this is very important because what's going to happen is they want to divide us. This is a uniting moment."
KENS 5 asked Gonzales again if he has changed his stance on guns since the shooting. He said, " I believe in the Constitution. I believe in ensuring that the Constitution is fully enacted. And we have a legal way to do that."
He then discussed prevention of violence going forward, first touching on his personal life.
"Here in San Antonio, I grew up in an abusive environment. I spent time in the San Antonio Battered Women's Shelter. So for me, school was my safest point. That doesn't happen in America anymore. People are afraid to go to school. So, how do we change that? What I don't want to do is this: we get into the politics and people are pushing politics. Right now, the House Democrats are pushing this HR 8. Well, guess what? HR 8 passed in the House last year. If it passed in the Senate this year, and even if the president were to sign it, that would not have stopped this Uvalde shooting. So what I'm getting at is this is about an opportunity for us to have meaningful changes. I think it starts with mental health and it goes from there."
KENS 5 anchor Sarah Forgany asked, "Outside of mental health, have you changed your stance at all on anything else?"
Gonzales responded, "This is a broad discussion...we're all fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Can we agree on one thing? Can we agree that we need to address the mental health issue in this country? Can we start there? If the answer is yes, then I think we can go on from there. If the answer is no -- if you can't if you can't agree on mental health -- what can we agree on?"
KENS 5 Anchor Barry Davis then said, "The Texas Legislature in 2013 passed the Texas Protection Texas Children's Act, which allowed school employees to carry weapons. Are we at a point in this country to where we need armed personnel? Whether it's full-time police officers for each district, whether it's teachers, school administrators, even the janitor passing a background check training, to have weapons on campus to prevent something like this?
Gonzales said, "I'm a father of six. I want my children to be safe in school. Before we're Republicans and Democrats, we're fathers and mothers. All of us should want our children be safe in school. Now, what does that mean? I think it's an all of the above approach. Let's bring all the ideas."
He then continued with how this is not a new topic, sadly. But, Gonzales said what we're lacking right now is inaction, despite the ideas out there. "People willing to come sit down at the table and have the discussion. Yesterday at Mass, one of the members from Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee, very progressive, her and my politics are very different. The entire time we're sitting next to each other going, 'How do we figure this out?'"
He continued with the importance if being united and not becoming more divided than we are already.
KENS 5 also asked Gonzales about the possibility of rebuilding Robb Elementary, which Congressman Joaquin Castro is joining the push on.
Gonzales said, "It came up a little bit yesterday. I mean, one, Robb Elementary is a very old school. Two, the part of it is the community. I mean, how are they going to go back to school in general? Not only Robb, but anywhere? And one of the things we've been looking at... I've been working with President Gonzalez from South Texas, Southwest Texas University Junior College there in Uvalde, to go, 'How do we start summer schools? How do we do some of these things?' But Robb Elementary is just a vessel, and that vessel may change. But we've got to get to the root of it, where our children are safe in our schools. That we drop them off and we go, 'You know what? My child is safe, all of us.'"
To wrap, KENS 5 asked Gonzales about the federal investigation into the Uvalde shooting. He said, "I think we absolutely need to find out the facts. And before people chime in and say different things that have no idea what was happening on the ground, we need to find out the facts. I listen to folks on the ground every single day."