In response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued eight executive orders Thursday he hopes will prevent future incidents.
The governor's orders task the Department of Public Safety with enhancing reporting requirements and ensuring that law enforcement and the public have the training, tools, and resources they need to provide and respond to Suspicious Activity Reports. This comes after it was learned that the mother of the El Paso gunman expressed concerns about her son's weapon to police and after the Odessa gunman called both federal and local authorities prior to opening fire.
"Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings" said Abbott, in a prepared statement. "One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders. But more must be done. I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans."
The latest news from around North Texas.
While Abbott vowed to continue working with legislators, he's so far resisted calls from members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus for a special session on gun violence and public safety initiatives.
The governor's executive orders can be seen below:
Order No. 1: Within 30 days of this order, the Texas Department of Public Safety shall 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 Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.
Order No. 2: Within 30 days of this order, the Department of Public Safety shall develop clear guidance, based on the appropriate legal standard, for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.
Order No. 3: Within 60 days of this order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shall make training available to educate all law-enforcement officers regarding the standards that will be developed pursuant to Order No. 1 and Order No. 2.
Order No. 4: The Department of Public Safety shall create and conduct an initiative to raise public awareness and understanding of how Suspicious Activity Reports are used by law-enforcement agencies to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats, so that the general public and friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates will be more likely to report information about potential gunmen.
Order No. 5: The Department of Public Safety shall work with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on ways to better inform schools, students, staff, and families about the importance of Suspicious Activity Reports and how to initiate that process.
Order No. 6: The Department of Public Safety shall work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessment teams for each of its regions, and when appropriate shall coordinate with federal partners.
Order No. 7: The Department of Public Safety, as well as the Office of the Governor, shall use all available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in Texas for the purpose of better collecting and responding to Suspicious Activity Reports, and better monitoring and analyzing social media and other online forums, for potential threats.
Order No. 8: Beginning January 1, 2020, all future grant awards from the Office of the Governor to counties shall require a commitment that the county will report at least 90 percent of convictions within seven business days to the Criminal Justice Information System at the Department of Public Safety. By January 1, 2021, such reporting must take place within five business days.
The governor's office said the executive orders are "a starting point in the process to keep Texas communities safe" and that he will be releasing a report of findings and recommendations from the Texas Safety Commission meetings next week.
Following the governor's announcement, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, directed the newly-created House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety to conduct oversight of the implementation of the governor's orders.
"Protecting the State of Texas from future tragedies requires an immediate, multifaceted approach on the part of our Legislature, state and local governments and their agencies," said Bonnen in a prepared statement. "I formed and directed the House Select Committee to identify measures that would prevent further mass shootings in Texas, and Governor Abbott’s executive orders provide a roadmap for meeting that objective. The State of Texas is taking swift action to put a stop to this epidemic of violence, and I thank Governor Abbott for his leadership on the matter."