Less than two weeks after 10 people were shot to death at a Texas high school, Gov. Greg Abbott laid out a plan for preventing future school shootings, and raised the possibility of calling lawmakers back to the state capitol to pass some of the proposals.
The School and Firearm Safety Action Plan contains 40 recommendations and includes proposals that would increase law enforcement presence at schools, strengthen existing campus security programs, enhance firearm safety, and provide mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others.
“This plan is a starting point, not an ending place,” Abbott said in a news release. “It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer.”
Ten people were killed and 13 others injured on May 18 at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, when a student armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fire in a classroom. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been charged with murder in the attack.
At the heart of the governor’s proposal is an expansion of the School Marshal Program, one of two existing systems for arming school personnel. More than 170 school districts of the 1,000-plus in Texas already have some type of system for arming educators and other staff. The Santa Fe school district had already approved the plan at the time of the shooting, but had not yet put it into place.
Abbott says he will not propose requiring schools to join that program, but that the state should pay for the training associated with it.
“When an active shooter situation arises, the difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds,” Abbott says. “Trained security personnel can make all the difference.”
Abbott unveiled his proposal at a news conference in Dallas. The Texas Tribune reports that calling a special legislative session would be a dramatic move during an election year in which Abbott and a majority of lawmakers are seeking new terms.
Much of the plan Abbott laid out Wednesday would require approval from the Texas Legislature, which will not reconvene until January 2019 unless Abbott intervenes.
Some lawmakers have demanded that Abbott, who has the sole authority to call special sessions, take such action. Most Texans responding to a poll taken before the Santa Fe shooting said they support stricter gun control laws.
Abbott's safety plan also includes narrow, gun-related proposals, including the tightening of the state's safe gun storage and laws.
The governor also proposed expanding a mental health screening program already operated through Texas Tech University. He says he hopes to make that program — now operational in 10 school districts — a statewide system, and wants the state to allocate $20 million for that purpose.
The Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center aims to identify junior high and high school students at risk of committing school violence and intervene before an incident occurs.
has already had 25 students removed from school, 44 placed in alternative schools and 38 sent to a hospital. Abbott had praised that program just hours after the shooting, tweeting that “we want to use it across the state.”
YouTube video from PBS NewsHour: Gov, Abbott announces school safety initiative.