EL PASO, Texas -- An El Paso state lawmaker is intent on changing gun regulations in the first legislative session since the deadly mass shooting at the El Paso Cielo Vista Walmart 19 months ago.
Rep. Joe Moody, (D - District 78), told ABC-7 that while lawmakers are intent on addressing the fallout from the pandemic and the crippling snowstorm, his overarching matter is addressing gun violence.
"It is an issue that is urgent and pressing for people like us here in El Paso because of the tragedy that we encountered, and we have to make sure people don't forget that," Moody said. "It's a wound that hasn't healed here yet."
Switching tactics to make change
Since taking office in 2008, Moody has focused on criminal justice reform and gun laws.
But Moody told ABC-7 he has since pivoted his focus from where and which weapons should be allowed to who should be allowed access.
He is working with other lawmakers in the Texas House on a handful of bills. One of them looks to amend the law regulating protective orders to expand a judge's purview regarding who should not be granted access to weapons based on the accusations they face.
"Currently we have five types of offenses for which a protective order can be issued. As part of that protective order, the judge can determine that you shouldn't have access to weapons during the life of that protective order," Moody said. "Those crimes right now are human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence, stalking and indecent assault.
"I'd like to see other types of crimes added to that protective order regime," added Moody. "Maybe some kinds of terroristic threat (or) different forms of harassment."
Moody also hopes legislators will agree to call for more regulation on private sales, which is often referred to as "the gun show loophole."
"The governor said this directly: 'How do you know you're not selling a weapon to someone who is very dangerous?'" Moody said, referencing a comment by Gov. Greg Abbott during his roundtable discussions after the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, both which occurred in Aug. 2019.
'Lie and Try' gains support from opposing sides
Moody said the talks uncovered consensus about those proposals and another one referred to as "Lie and Try."
"(It's when) someone lies on the background check," Moody explained. "Right now that's a federal offense, not a state offense. There was broad consensus that we need to make that a state offense as well."
That proposal has support from a man who has become the epitome of gun rights advocates across the state.
Stephen Willeford stopped the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017. He encountered the shooter after hearing gunfire from his home across the street from the church and grabbing an AR-15 from his gun rack.
Willeford was in El Paso in February to promote a documentary about the shooting.
RELATED CONTENT: Watch Stephen Willeford's full interview with ABC-7
"He came out of the church immediately and started shooting at me," Willeford told ABC-7 in a one-on-one interview. "I hit him in the left chest and in the abdomen… I put one in his side and in his legs where the body armor wasn't.
"This guy would have been denied (a gun purchase) because he had felonies," Willeford said. He added that he talked to state lawmakers and Gov. Abbott during the roundtable discussions, and even in recent months, about adopting "Lie and Try" at the state level.
"The state of Texas needs to take the bull by the horns," Willeford said. "There are things like that that we can do that will make a difference."
After years of few in-roads, Moody believes there is finally some agreement between advocates for gun rights and supporters of gun regulation.
"We can get there; it is not impossible," Moody said. "I intend to put every effort into it, and I intend to ask people to honor their word from those roundtable conversations," he added. "These are common sense (regulations) and at the end of the day you're talking about saving lives."
ABC-7 asked the Texas State Rifle Association whether they agreed with the proposals set forth by Moody and other legislators but organization officials have yet to respond.
The 87th Texas Legislative session ends in May.