Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive orders to address gun violence
AUSTIN — Under pressure to take concrete steps to address the recent spike in deadly mass shootings in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued eight executive orders seeking to keep firearms out the hands of people who pose a threat to public safety.
“Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings” Abbott said in a news release. “One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders. But more must be done.”
The orders include greater emphasis on bringing suspicious activity reports to the attention of appropriate law enforcement agencies and better informing students, school staffs and families of potential threats. They also come one day after Democrats in the state Legislature made high-profile pleas for the governor to call an emergency session on gun violence.
Abbott, a Republican, has resisted such calls at least until a bipartisan consensus can be reached, even while promising decisive action in the aftermath of the recent mass killings in El Paso and Odessa. Since taking office in January 2015, Abbott has been called on to console communities and survivors of at least five deadly mass shootings that have happened in Texas.
Nothing in the mandates laid out by the governor would limit access to firearms or affect how many rounds a rifle’s magazine could hold.
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Abbott said the finding from his newly appointed Texas Safety Commission will likely be released next week.
Democrats, who on Wednesday were urging action to address issues like magazine capacity and tougher laws that would allow authorities to act on “red flags” for gun owners who exhibit dangerous behavior appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the orders.
But state Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso, leader of the state Senate Democrats, sent Abbott a letter urging him to call lawmakers back to the state Capitol in Austin.
“We implore you to call a special session solely to reduce gun violence and combat the menacing rise of white supremacy,” Rodriguez said in his letter. “A special session affords all members an opportunity to discuss potential legislation and hear from Texans.”
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Republican state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this week appointed special legislative panels to examine deadly violence, called Abbott’s orders “a roadmap” for making Texas safer.
“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,” Bonnen said.
Here are Gov. Abbott’s orders:
- Order No. 1 Within thirty 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 thirty 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 sixty 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.
John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.
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