Texas has long had a solid reputation as a pro-gun state. After all, if you talked to most people and asked them which state they most think of when it came to guns, most would undoubtedly think of the Lone Star State.
In truth, Texas has some less than gun-friendly laws on the books, but they’re still fairly pro-gun.
That stance feels a little shakey after two major mass shootings within the span of a month within the state. Governor Greg Abbott has found himself under enormous pressure by anti-gun forces following the most recent mass shooting in Odessa, Texas.
To that end, the governor has just issued eight executive orders to address what he sees as an information gap that led to the shootings.
WHEREAS, on August 3, 2019, a gunman killed twenty-two people in El Paso and injured dozens more in a despicable act of domestic terrorism; and
WHEREAS, the mother of the El Paso gunman had previously expressed concern to police about her son and the weapon with which he would later commit his cowardly attack; and
WHEREAS, on August 31, 2019, another gunman heinously killed seven people in Odessa and injured dozens more; and
WHEREAS, the Odessa gunman had called both the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to his shooting spree, had previously failed a background check, and was recently reported to law enforcement for confronting a neighbor while brandishing a semiautomatic rifle; and
WHEREAS, these tragic events come in the wake of other mass shootings in Texas, including one in which a gunman in Santa Fe opened fire in his high school with a shotgun and a revolver, another in which a gunman murdered worshippers at their church in Sutherland Springs, and another in which a gunman fatally ambushed police officers in Dallas; and
WHEREAS, mental instability, racial hatred, extremist ideology, a desire to sow domestic terror, and other factors have contributed to these horrific mass shootings in varying degrees; and
WHEREAS, legislative action has been and will be taken to safeguard against these dangers; and
WHEREAS, in addition to further legislative action, executive action can be taken immediately to help prevent more mass shootings and keep Texans safe; and
WHEREAS, revised and readily available standards for gathering and processing information about potential criminal or terrorist acts can lead to swifter action by law enforcement to prevent such acts, including mass shootings;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following:
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.
This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.
Given under my hand this the 5th day of September, 2019.
Honestly, all of these are solid efforts that minimize the possibility of a person finding their rights infringed upon unduly while potentially maximizing the ability for law enforcement to deal with potential threats while they’re still just potential threats.
For anti-gunners, this isn’t nearly enough. They’re still outraged over the fact that a slew of new laws took effect just after El Paso, laws that loosened gun laws in the state. Apparently, Abbott was supposed to just ignore the legislature and suspend the rule of law because one person with an illegal weapon committed a horrific crime.
Anti-gunners will get over it. All of these are solid measures that are well within the authority of the government to do unilaterally like this. They might even save a lot of lives. I suspect that’s going to upset some anti-gunners all on its own. After all, fewer deaths mean fewer opportunities to use bodies as a soapbox.