Abbott calls on Texas House and Senate to form special committees on school safety, guns and mental health

The governor’s orders to the Texas House and Senate come as Democrats and gun-reform groups are instead urging lawmakers to immediately return to Austin for a special legislative session addressing gun laws.

By Julián Aguilar, The Texas NewsroomJune 1, 2022 3:32 pm,

From The Texas Newsroom:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday ordered the Texas House and Senate to convene special legislative committees to address school and gun safety in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Uvalde.

In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, Abbott said the committees should examine what state resources are currently available to school districts and make recommendations to Abbott and the Legislature “so that meaningful action can be made on” school safety, mental health, social media, gun safety and police training, according to the letter.

“As Texans mourn the tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week, we as a State must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence,” Abbott wrote. “As leaders, we must come together at this time to provide solutions to protect all Texans.”

The instructions come as Democrats are instead urging Abbott to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to address gun violence. Laws can only be passed by the Legislature, and the state’s governor is the only official who can call lawmakers back to Austin during the interim period between regular sessions. Lawmakers are not scheduled to reconvene at the Capitol until early January 2023.

Abbott has so far resisted those calls and has pushed back against considering tighter gun legislation or age restrictions for firearm purchases.

“The ability of an 18-year-old to buy a long gun has been in place in the state of Texas for more than 60 years,” Abbott said Friday. “And why is it that for the majority of those 60 years we did not have school shootings? And why is it that we do now?”

Abbott has instead placed an emphasis on mental health challenges and how they contribute to mass violence, though he said early on that there is not evidence the Uvalde gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had a history of mental health issues.

In the days after the shooting, Abbott did say that “all options are on the table.” He has used similar language after mass shootings in the past, including at Santa Fe high school in 2018 when 10 people were killed and the shooting at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 that ended with 23 people dead and nearly two dozen injured. Instead of a special session, however, Abbott convened roundtable discussions after those tragedies and instructed members to come up with ideas for lawmakers to consider. Less than a month after the El Paso shooting, a gunman killed seven people in a shooting spree in Odessa.

Lawmakers did pass two related laws in 2021: one that established a statewide active shooter alert system and another that made it a state crime to give false information when purchasing a weapon.

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