- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called for more armed school safety personnel, better school security and better access to mental health treatment as part of a 40-point response to this month’s deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School.

Mr. Abbott described his plan as a “starting point” he devised after holding roundtable discussions to solicit ideas in the wake of the shooting two weeks ago, which killed 10 people at a school just outside of Houston.

The Republican governor said students, teachers and law enforcement all told him schools need more police and armed marshals.

“When an active shooter situation arises, the difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds,” Mr. Abbott said. “Trained security personnel can make all the difference.”

He also wants to see more metal detectors at school entrances, improved campus security plans and expanded telemedicine mental health screenings for troubled students.

“It seems that after every one of these mass shootings, there were advance warning signs that appeared on social media,” Mr. Abbott said. “We want to be able to view and aggregate and track those warning signs and use those warnings to disrupt the threat before it causes harm.”

Authorities say Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at Santa Fe High, opened fire May 18, killing eight students and two educators at the school and wounding 13 other people.

Mr. Pagourtzis reportedly posted a photo of a T-shirt that said “Born to Kill” on his Facebook page three weeks before the attack, though authorities and students say there were few outward signs that he was planning a shooting.

Authorities say he used a shotgun and a revolver legally owned by his father. He also reportedly brought two bombs to the school, but they did not function.

Mr. Abbott’s response to the shooting contrasts with Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s response to the February massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Mr. Scott’s plan called for increased security and armed personnel, but the bill he signed also increases the minimum purchasing age for most rifles in the state from 18 to 21. That drew opposition from gun-rights groups and prompted a lawsuit from the National Rifle Association.

In Texas, Mr. Abbott said he would like to tweak state laws to require parents with children up to age 17 to take precautions in storing their firearms out of reach. Currently the law covers families with children up to age 16.

Mr. Abbott, who is up for re-election this year, did not propose any new gun controls like expanded background checks Wednesday, and touted his pro-gun bona fides as he laid out the plan.

“I can assure you: I will never allow Second Amendment rights to be infringed,” he said. “But I will always promote responsible gun ownership, and that includes keeping guns safe and keeping them out of the hands of criminals.”

Lupe Valdez, Mr. Abbott’s Democratic opponent, said the Texas governor’s plan comes up “woefully short” and doesn’t do enough to directly address guns.

“Gov. Abbott’s proposals accept gun violence in our schools and communities as inevitable and unavoidable,” Ms. Valdez said. “We must do more.”

Mr. Abbott acknowledged that some of his proposals, like changing the age definition for child, would require action from the state Legislature, which is not currently in session.

Mr. Abbott said he’s open to calling a special session to approve some of the proposals, but pointed out that there’s probably not enough time to pass new laws in time for them to take effect before the next school year.

“That said, I’m not taking any strategies off the table, and I have been and will continue to work with legislators to build consensus on proposals,” he said.

Mr. Abbott said there should be more than $100 million available to help schools implement the security strategies.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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