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GOP responds to national gun debate

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The Republican response to the national gun debate just may be put to the test right here in Texas.

The basic argument against gun control from many in the Republican Party boils down to--guns don't kill, people do. The solution some GOP leaders seem to be offering up is more resources into mental health care. The state budget being drafted could determine who is really committed to the argument - and who is only paying lip service to it.

Newly elected Congressman Roger Williams swung by an Austin gun shop Wednesday morning to make it clear where he stands in the gun control debate.

"This constitution by this Administration has been under attack constantly so you talk about common ground I don't know where it is, when you look at U.S. Sen. Feinstein's Bill, it says if it looks like a gun, ban it," said the Texas Republican.

The Congressman, who is on the House Budget Committee-, was asked if providing more funding to mental health providers is part of his solution.

"Funding is always important, to the extent that we have it, but I think we need to reach out right now and begin more dialog with that community and fix this problem we've got," said Congressman Williams.

Williams' position is similar to what Governor Rick Perry told me when I spoke to him earlier this month.

"And I'm more interested in making sure our kids are safe in schools than some political and highly charged discussion that's going on like right now," said Governor Perry.

I asked the Governor if he would you be willing to support stronger background checks, and psychological assessments.

"I think we, that we need to have a broad based conversation in our society today from the stand point of, what, were the drugs all of these people been involved whether it's been in Colorado or Conn, or wherever it might have been ... how were they being impacted from a medical stand point,"

Shifting the focus is forcing Republicans to address past reductions in mental health care funding. In this effort to protect gun rights, Republicans have apparently gotten themselves into a put-up-or-shut-up situation. And with the Budget process now getting underway here in Texas, this may become the new battle ground.

"A lot of times in order to get the care, individuals have to go to jail, in order to mental health care and that's absurd," said Dallas Democrat- Royce West.

The State Senator is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which took up health care funding on Wednesday. West says he's noticed a change in some Republicans, but he's not ready to say that change will become more dollars.

"I'll be able to answer than in May sometime, but I can tell you there is a lot of talk about it right now, and I think it's good faith talk on behalf of the members on the senate finance committee, are willing to get together and deal with the particular issue but that still doesn't take off the table some initiatives we need to be looking at on the federal level," said Sen. West.

The game plan for Republicans on the state Senate Finance Committee is to root out fraud in health care and to make the funding process more efficient. A big payoff from that is far from certain, and so is the amount of money lawmakers are really willing to put into the mental health care budget. The base budget plan currently calls for a 3% increase in the Health and Human Services. A recent study ranked Texas as last in per capita spending for mental health. The national average for state spending on mental health services is $109 per capita. Texas spends $36.

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