Texas Governor Turns to Executive Orders to Stop Shootings

Crime scene tape surrounds the home of Seth Aaron Ator, the alleged gunman in a West Texas rampage, on Monday near Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed eight executive orders Thursday in an effort to combat mass shootings after two recent massacres in El Paso and Odessa.

The executive orders focus on creating a better link between citizen reports of potentially dangerous individuals and the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network, as well as additional officer training and a public awareness campaign, according to a statement from Abbott’s office.

The first order requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to, within 30 days, “develop standardized intake questions that can be used by all Texas law-enforcement agencies to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported” to the reporting network, and another order will give the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement 60 days to create law enforcement training on how to implement the new reporting process.

Two others direct DPS to create public awareness campaigns for the general public and school populations to better inform citizens on the suspicious activity reporting process and how to submit such a report.

Another order would bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals and school districts to conduct threat assessments in various communities. In order to identify threats online, a separate order would give state agencies the green light to hire more monitoring staff for social media and other online platforms.

Finally, the last order would require Texas counties to submit at least 90% of all convictions into the DPS Criminal Justice Information System within seven days, starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The executive orders were crafted to directly address the issue of law enforcement being warned about a gunman prior to a shooting but failing to prevent it. For example, the alleged El Paso shooter’s mother called local and federal law enforcement regarding concerns about her son’s guns.

Abbott’s office suggested that institutional “information gaps” led to incomplete enforcement procedures.

“Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings,” the governor said in a statement. “One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders,” while also “safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”

Abbott did not specify how much funding would be allotted to the orders, and his office did not immediately respond to the question Thursday.

Neither El Paso nor Odessa immediately responded to requests for comment on the executive orders.

The orders stop short of enforcement procedures for red-flag laws, which allow state officials to temporarily seize an individual’s firearms if someone close to them submits a report to indicate a threat to that individual or others. Several states enacted such laws in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting in February 2018, including Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C., and more states have adopted similar laws this year.

Abbott’s orders focus on prevention procedures, but avoid a commitment to firearm seizures.

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