Texas Governor Calls on Lawmakers to Help Stop Shootings

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a report Thursday outlining a host of executive policies aimed at stopping mass shootings and asking state lawmakers to enact various legislative responses when they reconvene in 2021.

Crime scene tape surrounds the home of the suspected gunman in a West Texas rampage on Sept. 2, 2019, near Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The report comes on the heels of two high-profile mass shootings in the Lone Star State.

A white gunman in El Paso killed 22 Walmart shoppers with a semi-automatic rifle last month. FBI investigators treated the spree as an act of domestic terrorism before the suspected shooter was indicted on a capital murder charge Thursday.

In Midland and Odessa, another white man killed seven, again with a semi-automatic rifle, on Aug. 31 after he was stopped for a traffic violation mere hours after he was fired from his trucking job.

In his preface to the report, Abbott wrote that he has met with nearly 50 experts, including law enforcement officials, tech experts and victims, in developing the proposed strategies for state agencies to tackle the issue.

The report elaborates on the eight executive orders Abbott signed last week, which themselves were informed by the first quarterly meeting of the state’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force, formed last month to advise law enforcement departments on combating mass shootings.

The governor’s report says that its Public Safety Office provided millions of dollars to law enforcement agencies responding to the El Paso shooting and is working to free up more money so that Midland and Odessa police can similarly cover overtime, free psychological first aid for survivors and reimbursements for the counties prosecuting the suspected shooters.

Abbott has ordered an intelligence assessment on the domestic terrorism threat to Texas, directed law enforcement facilities to more closely monitor domestic terrorism to aid FBI task forces, and instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and law enforcement agencies to assign more special agents to counterterrorism efforts.

The report notes that eight of 27 mass shooters identified in a recent Secret Service report had a history of domestic violence, and asks state agencies to expand their domestic violence response efforts. It also asks law enforcement agencies to take advantage of Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center in preparing to respond quickly to mass shootings, and state employees as well as private companies to host active shooter training sessions.

Abbott also wants medical agencies to inform physicians and other health professionals when they must disclose otherwise confidential information to law enforcement personnel.

A laundry list of legislative proposals is also included in the governor’s report, which asks lawmakers to pass bills that would criminalize straw purchases of firearms, in which a Texan who may legally purchase a gun then sells or gives the firearm to a criminal or someone otherwise prohibited from buying firearms, and make it easier and cheaper for private firearm sellers to conduct background checks voluntarily.

Abbott further asks lawmakers to require courts to inform convicts, in person and in writing, that they may no longer possess firearms, prohibit minor offenders convicted of some violent crimes from buying firearms, and institute greater punishments for those who attempt to illegally own a firearm and anyone convicted of a violent offense.

The governor says the Legislature should mandate that stolen firearms recovered in a county must be reported to the sheriff within 10 days of the theft’s discovery, and should fund a program that would identify “violent crime hot spots” and coordinate and integrate attempts to police and prosecute such areas.

In the spirit of integration, Abbott asks Texas to “spur cooperation to encourage social media companies to report suspicious activities to law enforcement,” and requests a law that would expedite reports of criminal convictions to the Department of Public Safety so that background checks are more routinely successful.

The governor’s office also wants lawmakers to undertake a number of school safety initiatives, such as improving parental engagement in schools, emphasizing student mental health issues and ensuring that schools are notified when former students are arrested.

One notable request asks the Legislature to emulate the proposed Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate. The bill was introduced by Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and would help law enforcement refer cases to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Attorney’s offices.

Texas’ 87th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 12, 2021.

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