Texas governor will hold first roundtable discussion on school security today

Adding recently filed constitutional carry legislation to the special 30-day session is now in the hands of Gov. Greg Abbott (Photo: Texas Governor’s office)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will host roundtable discussions on school safety May 22-24, 2018 at the state capitol. (Photo: Texas Governor’s office)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a schedule of roundtable discussions on school security this week in response to the state’s deadliest school shooting in nearly 50 years.

Beginning Tuesday, advocates on both sides of the gun debate will join students, parents, teachers and legislators in three days of dialogue regarding hardening schools, improving mental health services, arming teachers and enacting stricter firearm regulations after a teenage gunman killed 10 and wounded 13 others at Santa Fe High School on Friday.

“I am seeking the best solutions to make our schools more secure and to keep our communities safe,” Abbott said. “I look forward to hearing from all sides of the debate, and from expert perspectives on these issues. Working together, we can ensure a safe learning environment for students and safer communities for all Texans.”

Texas Gun Sense said Monday Abbott invited the gun control group to participate in the discussions. Executive Director Gyl Switzer called the opportunity “an honor” and said the group will prioritize discussions on universal background checks, safe storage education, extreme risk protection orders and suicide prevention.

“We hope that this will be the first of many productive meetings and discussions that will lead to meaningful improvements in Texas law and reduce gun violence in the state,” he said. “We believe that the time has come for this meeting and we are pleased to participate.”

Friday’s shooting at the suburban Houston high school so far hasn’t inspired the same level of activism witnessed after the Parkland massacre in February. Instead, some Texas officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, think the problem lies in flawed school design.

“There aren’t enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit. You would be talking twenty-five-, thirty-, forty thousand people,” Patrick said during a press conference Friday. “But if we can protect a large office building or a courthouse or any major facility, maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and the exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at the people who come in one or two entrances.”

Patrick said the solution might be costly, but its necessary. “We need to do the work and do the money to protect the children the best we can,” he said. “In other words, we may need to harden our schools and make them safer.”

Fewer entrances may have prevented 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, Jr. from concealing his father’s Remington 870 shotgun and .38-caliber revolver under a long coat on a hot day unnoticed, Patrick alleged. Instead, the teen murdered eight students and two teachers during a 30-minute shooting spree Friday morning before surrendering to police in a hallway.

Thirteen others, including School Resource Officer John Barnes, suffered injuries during the attack. Barnes underwent emergency surgery for a shotgun blast to the arm and remains hospitalized.

Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady confirmed the names of the victims over the weekend: Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone, Aaron Kyle McLeod and teachers Glenda Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale. “Please keep the families in your thoughts as they mourn this tragic loss,” Roady said.

Police charged Pagourtzis with capital murder and aggravated assault against a public servant. He’s in solitary confinement on suicide watch at the Galveston County Jail. Few other details surrounding why Pagourtzis snapped have emerged in the days since, though his family and other students have alleged bullying may have played a role. The police affidavit even indicates Pagourtzis spared students he liked “so they could tell his story.”

The district denied the bullying claims in a Facebook statement over the weekend and requested “mindful” dissemination of information out of respect for the bereaving families.

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