Following the most recent mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a report Thursday outlining what the state can do to prevent such future attacks -- much of which will have to wait until the 2021 legislative session.
Abbott's Texas Safety Action Report, the result of several weeks of meetings with nearly 50 community leaders, experts, faith leaders and law enforcement experts, among others, builds on Executive Orders issued earlier this month with several newly recommended executive and legislative actions designed to, "prevent these horrific tragedies from taking place."
"We must act with resolve in response to the despicable acts of violence we have witnessed in Texas," said Abbott in a statement. "Solving the problems that have led to these horrific events will take more than governmental action. The complete solution will require more than what is outlined in this paper. It will require parents, families, churches, law enforcement, community groups, schools, and others working together to fortify the social fabric of our society. Texans are at our best when we are tested. Together, we will transcend this test, and forge an even better future for our state."
Abbott's eight Executive Orders issued last week largely tasked the Texas Department of Public Safety with developing procedures for following up on suspicious persons and/or activity reports and for developing regional threat assessment teams.
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The governor gave the DPS between 30 and 60 days to get the ball rolling on those procedures.
In Thursday's Safety Action Report, Abbott suggested future executive actions to prevent mass attacks may include strengthening domestic violence high risk teams, expanding law enforcement training, educating medical professionals about the law concerning disclosing confidential information and accelerating the development and implementation of the DPS safe firearm storage campaign.
The governor also included a number of recommendations for state legislators to take up in 2021, the next time the legislature will convene. Despite a push from the Texas Democratic Caucus, Abbott has said he does not plan to call a special session to take up the issue of gun control or gun safety, so none of the recommendations below can be presented or voted on until the next session.
A summary of the legislative recommendations can be found below; Abbott's full report can be seen at the bottom of this page.
- The Legislature should consider expediting the reporting of criminal convictions to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
- The Legislature should consider prohibiting straw purchases of firearms under state law. A primary goal is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
- The Legislature should consider laws that crack down on criminals who try to illegally buy or possess guns.
- The Legislature should consider requiring courts to inform convicted criminals, both orally and in writing, that they may no longer possess firearms.
- The Legislature should consider stiffer consequences for criminals convicted of violent offenses.
- The Legislature could consider requiring that any stolen firearms be reported to the county sheriff within 10 days of when the owner becomes aware of the theft.
- The Legislature should consider ways to make it easy, affordable, and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.
- The Legislature should consider prohibiting juvenile offenders convicted of certain violent crimes from legally purchasing firearms.
- The Legislature should spur cooperation to encourage social media companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
- The Legislature should consider implementing and funding a Texas program, similar to federal initiatives, which uses a multi-pronged strategy of policing and prosecution, agency integration, and identification of violent crime hot spots. The focus would be on criminals with guns, not law-abiding Texans.
- The Legislature should consider a law that works in conjunction with the proposed federal “Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act” of 2019.
- The Legislature should work with the TEA to develop strategies to improve parental engagement in schools.
- When updating the Health TEKS, the State Board of Education (SBOE) should emphasize student mental health issues, including depression, social media immersion, and drug abuse.
- The Legislature should consider amending state law to ensure schools are notified when former students are arrested.