State lawmakers face mounting pressure to prevent mass shootings in Texas, especially after 30 people, including one shooter, died in August, alone. On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued eight executive orders to try to stem the violence, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be effective.
Bob Garrett is Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News, and says the orders are generally aimed at improving law enforcement’s ability to keep track of and respond to “suspicious activity.” They would provide more training for law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, 911 dispatchers and others to help them more effectively report those who may pose a threat of violence.
“So that they can then have a better idea [of], Is this a call that I need to turn over to this [Texas] Suspicious Activity Reporting Network?” Garrett says.
Part of the reason for improving this system is because people did alert law enforcement prior to the Midland-Odessa and El Paso shootings. In the case of Midland-Odessa, the shooter himself called 911 and an FBI tip line not long before he opened fire on police officers and civilians. Those alerts didn’t prevent the violence.
“This would be an attempt to improve the system and its use of these tips,” Garrett says.
But Garrett says the executive orders aren’t enough for Texas Democrats. He says they want a special legislative session; they also want to debate so-called red flag laws, improve background checks and more.
“They have a big agenda; they’re not gonna be satisfied by this,” Garrett says.
For Abbott’s part, he could be open to a short special session, Garrett says, if it’s clear to him that lawmakers can come to a consensus on a plan of action, “which means, if the Democrats will be good boys and girls and come to the table,” Garrett says.
But he says Democrats are unlikely to do that.
“I’m not sure the Democrats, going into a big election … are gonna want to agree to something that is very, very watered down,” Garrett says. “And I think ‘watered down’ is about all you can get out of Republicans who have the NRA [National Rifle Association] looking over their shoulder.”
He says a special session is likely so that Republicans can try to resolve the issue before the height of the 2020 election cycle. They are already facing growing numbers of Democrats candidates in historically Republican suburbs.
“They … do not want to go into this next election with this being the front-burner topic,” Garrett says.
Written by Caroline Covington.