Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reveals plan to make schools safer

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reveals plan to make schools safer

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Associated Press report says Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday, May 
30, called for schools to have more armed personnel and said they should
 put greater focus on spotting student mental health problems but he 
proposed only a few small restrictions on guns following a shooting at a
 high school near Houston that left 10 people dead.

The Republican and staunch gun-rights 
supporter released a 43-page report following three days of mostly 
closed-door meetings last week organized with school district officials,
 shooting survivors and groups on both sides of the gun-control debate, 
among others.

The recommendations are voluntary, and 
some would require changes to state laws that would need approval from 
the Legislature, which doesn’t come back into session until 2019. School
 districts wishing to make some of the changes could begin doing so, 
such as sending staff for free gun training this summer.

The lack of major gun control measures 
is not surprising in a state that embraces its gun-friendly reputation 
and has more than 1.2 million people licensed to carry handguns.

The only significant gun-related 
proposal was a possible “red flag” law, although Abbott gave it a tepid 
endorsement, asking leaders of the Legislature to “consider the merits.”
 Eight states have red flag laws that allow family, law enforcement and 
others to file a petition to remove firearms from a potentially 
dangerous person. Florida, Vermont and Maryland passed such laws after 
the mass school shooting in Florida in February.

Abbott’s report does not appear to 
depart much from the playbook of the powerful National Rifle Association
 following school shootings.

Alice Tripp, legislative director for 
the NRA-affiliated Texas State Rifle Association said Abbott’s proposals
 wouldn’t lead to weapons being seized without some protections for gun 
owners. “Gov. Abbott has pledged due process. He’s a gun owner himself,”
 Tripp said.

Abbott is proposing a change to the 
state law that says guns can’t be accessible to children under 17, with 
exceptions such as hunting or parent supervision. He’s encouraging the 
Legislature to consider making the law also apply to 17-year-olds. 
Authorities have charged a 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 
with capital murder in the May 18 attack at Santa Fe High School. 
Pagourtzis is accused of using a shotgun and .38 revolver that belonged 
to his father.

Abbott also wants a new law that would require gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 10 days.

The report says the state will have 
access to nearly $70 million through federal funding and state grants 
for the proposals. The state also expects to compete for an additional 
$40 million from federal programs, and Abbott says he’ll ask state 
lawmakers for a further $30 million.

“We all share a common bond: And that is
 we want action to prevent another shooting like what happened at Santa 
Fe High School,” Abbott, who is campaigning for re-election, said during
 a news conference at Dallas school district headquarters.

Abbott’s Democratic opponent for 
governor, Lupe Valdez, said it’s “astounding” how few of the proposals 
directly address gun violence.

So far, the governor has not been 
enthusiastic about calls for a special legislative session on gun laws –
 a sharp contrast to the response in Florida following the February high
 school shooting there that killed 17 people. Florida lawmakers, who 
were already in session, passed a gun-control package three weeks later,
 thanks in part to a lobbying campaign led by student survivors of the 

In Texas, any attempts to create a 
mechanism to seize weapons is likely to be met with skepticism in a 
Republican-controlled Legislature that has expanded the rights of gun 
owners in recent years and made it easier and cheaper to be licensed to 
carry a handgun.

Also, unlike the students in Florida, 
several students at Santa Fe High School have been vocal opponents of 
increased gun control, including some who were invited to meet with 
Abbott last week.

Kris Brown, the co-president of the 
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “The answer to preventing 
school shootings isn’t some deep-seated secret. It’s guns. It’s the fact
 that it’s frighteningly easy for dangerous people to get access to a 
gun, and this proposal does little to stop that.”

Texas State Teachers Association 
President Noel Candelaria said he “strongly objects” to arming more 
teachers. “Teachers are trained to teach and to nurture, not double up 
as security guards,” Candelaria said.

Abbott’s recommendations include 
measures to “harden” campuses such as creating vestibules where doors 
must by remotely unlocked before visitors enter, installing metal 
detectors and having an alarm that would signal there’s an active 


Abbott is also recommending an expansion
 of a program that identifies students at risk of committing violence 
and provides help for them. He also wants to increase the number of 
people trained to identify signs of mental illness and increase 
awareness of a state system that allows people to report people who may 
be a threat and suspicious activity.


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