“We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” Abbott said during a press conference Friday. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas.”
Abbott’s push for legislative action came hours after a 17-year-old gunman entered the high school Friday morning and murdered 10 people and injured 13 others, including two law enforcement officers who had engaged him during the attack. Texas authorities said the Santa Fe gunman took guns from his dad, who legally owned them, and concealed them under a trench coat.
The quickness of the governor’s response likely a lesson from witnessing political action spurred by February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which has had a cascading effect in both the public and private sectors.
The student-led activism, bolstered by gun control groups, successfully lobbied lawmakers in Florida — long considered a gun rights stronghold — to pass sweeping gun control measures and influenced major financial institutions to revise their policies on lending to gun businesses.
What new solutions will emerge from Abbott’s roundtable are unclear. Texas law already permits arming teachers, a subject Abbott praised during his speech at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting earlier this month (though both Galveston County officials and its educators opt not to). Also, the Santa Fe school had an award-winning school safety plan and had two armed police officers posted on campus.
While policy debate following a mass shooting typically results in a singular solution applicable to the scenario or a measure that seems palatable, Abbott wants to ensure mass shootings never happen again in Texas, so proposals may include solutions unrelated to the Santa Fe shooting.
“The fact of the matter is in the fog of the aftermath of a catastrophe like this the answers are not always immediate, but the answers will come by us working together,” Abbott said.
Abbott explained the roundtable will broach the subjects of “expedient” background checks, strategies to keep guns away from those who pose a danger to others, and providing more resources to schools and to mental health programs. All of which, he added, are included in a policy paper he had planned on revealing next week.
During Friday’s press conference, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the Santa Fe school’s staff “had done everything that they could to protect” students and teachers from the gunman, but the problem with school security maybe that “there are too many entrances and too many exits” in school buildings. To secure the more than 8,000 campuses in Texas, he said the solution may be “creative” and take a lot of work and cost a lot of money.
Abbott will host the roundtable discussion next week. “We can work together on putting together laws that will protect Second Amendment rights but at the same time ensure communities and especially our schools are safer places,” he said.