IssuesState HouseState SenateStatewide NewsGovernor Abbott Issues Report Following Mass Shootings in El Paso and Odessa

Following the horrific mass murders in El Paso and Odessa, Governor Abbott's task force released its report intended to prevent future mass shootings.
September 12, 2019
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Governor Greg Abbott released the Texas Safety Action Report earlier today in the wake of the mass murders in El Paso and Odessa. The report is aimed at enhancing security in Texas and intended to help prevent future mass shootings while also “upholding the constitutional rights of all Texans.”

Following the horrific events last month, Abbott created the Texas Safety Commission and the Domestic Terrorism Task Force to work in conjunction with Texas Senate and House Select Committees on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, each respectively instituted by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen. 

Additionally, at the end of August, Abbott issued eight executive orders in response to the shootings. 

Today’s report includes a series of so-called “immediate actions” followed by additional guidance on a series of executive orders and then policy recommendations for the Texas Legislature.

The Executive Orders are as follows:

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  • Order No. 1 mandates that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) develop standardized questions for law enforcement agencies to determine if individuals calling the agency have information worth reporting to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network (SAR).
  • Order No. 2 requires DPS to develop a standardized policy dictating how agencies submit SARs. 
  • Order No. 3 states that the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement will provide standardized training to law enforcement on what constitutes suspicious activity and how to collect such information. 
  • Order No. 4 mandates that DPS will raise public awareness and understanding of SARS, so that the public is more readily able to identify potential mass shooters and terrorist threats.
  • Order No. 5 requires DPS to work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to increase awareness about SARs and enhance safety at schools. 
  • Order No. 6 requires DPS to coordinate with local law enforcement and mental health professionals to create threat assessment teams. 
  • Order No. 7 increases staffing at Texas fusion centers in order to better collect and respond to SARs through the monitoring of internet sites and social media.
  • Order No. 8 requires Texas counties to report at least 90 percent of all convictions within one week to DPS in order to more quickly ensure all convictions are recorded and prevent ineligible people from purchasing firearms. By January 1, 2021, all Texas counties will have five days to report all convictions as opposed to seven days.

Along with these executive orders, the report also includes other so-called “concrete steps” that may be undertaken by state agencies. 

These include: 

  • Strengthening Domestic Violence High-Risk Teams to additional locations across the state as nearly one-third of mass shooters have a history of domestic violence. 
  • Expanding the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University. 
  • Refreshing training for peace officers about the procedures and criteria for “emergency detention,” which gives peace officers the authority to place individuals under “emergency detention” in certain situations.
  • Educating physicians and other health professionals about laws concerning the disclosure of personal information to law enforcement.
  • Enhancing coordination between DPS and fusion centers in order to improve accountability.
  • Accelerating the development and implementation of the DPS safe firearm storage campaign.

Other recommendations from the Texas Senate and House Select Committees on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety concern firearm safety among additional strategies. These recommendations to the Legislature include:

  • Expediting reporting of criminal convictions to DPS.
  • Prohibiting straw purchases of firearms.
  • Instituting laws that further penalize criminals who try to illegally purchase or possess guns.
  • Requiring courts to inform convicted criminals that the possession of firearms will not be allowed.
  • Increasing consequences for criminals convicted of violent offenses.
  • Requiring all stolen firearms be reported to county sheriffs within 10 days of the owner becoming aware of the theft.
  • Creating easier ways for private firearm sellers to use voluntary background checks.
  • Prohibiting juvenile offenders convicted of specified violent crimes from legally purchasing firearms.
  • Enhancing cooperation between social media companies and law enforcement to report suspicious activity.
  • Implementing a Texas program for policing and prosecution, agency integration, and identification of violent crime hot spots focused on criminals with guns.
  • Instituting a state law that works in conjunction with proposed federal laws to prevent criminals from obtaining guns while also protecting second amendment rights afforded to citizens.
  • Working with TEA to create strategies for improving parental engagement in schools.
  • Updating the Health Texas Essential Knowledge (TEK) by emphasizing mental health issues.
  • Amending Texas law so that schools are notified when former students are arrested.

In an official statement, Lt. Gov. Patrick said of the report, “Gov. Abbott and I both understand that a background check is needed for stranger-to-stranger gun sales and I am glad he included that issue in his list of recommendations for the legislature to consider. I am confident the senators will move forward on these issues and will take a number of steps to make every Texas community safer — which is our shared goal.”

Importantly, however, while the report does increase the standards for background checks, it does not include information pertaining to red flag laws, mandate background checks for so-called “stranger to stranger” sales, or implement state laws limiting the configuration of weapons. 

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.