Texas Senate Committee Shies Away From ‘Red Flag’ Law As Part Of School Safety Recommendations

Report suggests lawmakers focus on clarifying existing laws and providing mental health resources for schools.

By Jill Ament & Kristen CabreraAugust 7, 2018 6:36 pm, ,

After the Parkland school shooting, the Florida legislature passed minor measures on gun safety. In Texas, conversations after the Santa Fe High School shooting seemed to offer similar possibilities. However a “red flag” law, which would take guns away from those deemed a risk to others, appears to be a no-go. Monday, the Texas Senate’s Select Committee on Violence in Schools released its list of school security recommendations.

Andrea Zelinski, Austin bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle says that though they mention wanting to try to clarify certain laws, the primary focus of the report is on mental health.

“Making sure there are enough counselors in schools,” she says. “Making sure those counselors aren’t overwhelmed with too many different tasks. And there are enough professionals in those buildings who can address kids who could be going down a path to violence.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other lawmakers who are strong Second Amendment advocats, are the first roadblock to expanding the “red flag” law, Zelinski says.

But others have specific concerns about how a “red flag” law would work, Zielinski says. How do you ensure due process? How do you ensure someone gets their gun back if they prove to no longer be dangerous? How do you properly determine if a person poses no rick, or is a threat? Cases made under a “red flag” law wouldn’t be based on a mental health screening.

“These would be based on a family member or someone in law enforcement petitioning a judge saying hey this person is a threat to themselves or to other people and shouldn’t have their gun,” she says.

As for the how the committee proposes their safety recommendations  be funded, Zielinski says that’s the big question.

“The state already pays less of its share toward education than it has years before,” she says. “That’s a perpetual problem here and if we are seeing more requirements for putting in metal detectors or more advanced security cameras, that’s all gonna cost money that school districts, many of whom are already strapped, can’t afford. And [they] are gonna be looking for the state to help them out and the state is already short on cash for schools.”

The committee intends that the legislature consider their recommendations when in January, when the next regular session convenes. But Zalinskis says that districts don’t have to wait until then to implement their own safety plans. It’s possible that students preparing for the upcoming school year could see some changes.

“The school districts themselves can start making changes in terms of who are they staffing in their building and what are there priorities. So when kids go back to school they will probably notice some changes but it probably won’t be massive,” she says.