A New Plan to End School Gun Violence Still Tip-Toes Around Current Gun Laws

The state has responded to the Santa Fe High School shooting with a detailed plan to make schools safer

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, left, hosts a roundtable discussion in Austin, Texas, to address safety and security at Texas schools. Credit: Eric Gay/AP/REX Shutterstock

Following the shooting that left 10 dead at Santa Fe High School, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced he would hold a series of roundtable discussions focusing on ways to curb gun violence in schools. Although some of the state's leading gun reform proponents were not invited, the group Texas Gun Sense joined Abbott in Austin, along with fellow legislators, law enforcement officials, education experts and families who had been impacted by the previous week's tragedy.

On Wednesday afternoon, Abbott held a press conference to announce some of the specifics of an action plan developed as a result of the roundtables. The Governor's School and Firearm Safety Plan includes over $100 million in state and federal grants that will be put toward increasing the number of armed guards stationed at schools throughout the state, as well as instituting several other measures aimed at preventing gun violence. Absent from the plan is any meaningful gun reform.

Abbott echoed a desire expressed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick the day of the shooting to limit entrances and exits to schools so they can be more easily monitored, and called for more educators to be trained to serve as armed marshals, an idea pushed by several Republican lawmakers in the wake of the February 14th shooting at Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. Abbott also outlined a plan to install active shooter alarms that are easily distinguishable from fire alarms. He described the on-site measures in the plan as "school hardening strategies."

The governor also called for the expansion of a program developed at Texas Tech University that "uses mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence," and that next month the state will activate an app called iWatchTX that will allow students to report possible threats. In total, the governor's plan featured 40 recommended strategies for preventing future mass shooting. "This plan is a starting point, not an ending place," said Abbott.

Notably but not surprisingly missing from the plan were any meaningful gun reform measures. He brought up the issue at the end of the address, first listing his decorated record as a pro-gun legislator. Among the gun control measures suggested on Wednesday was a requirement to expand the definition of what gun storage law constitutes a child from 16 and under to 17 and under – citing that the Santa Fe High School shooter was 17 years old –  meaning that households with child of that age would be legally required to lock up their firearms.

Abbott also said he will recommend gun owners report whenever their firearms are lost or stolen, that courts will be required to report citizens they deem mentally unfit to own a firearm within 48 hours of making that determination and that he will ask the Texas House and Senate to consider implementing a procedure that will allow firearms to be removed from citizens proven to be dangerous. Abbott specified that these individuals would be afforded due process and that the removal of firearms would be temporary. There was no mention of bolstering the state's background check laws, which several gun reform activists have suggested. "I will never allow Second Amendment rights to be infringed, but I will always promote responsible gun ownership, which includes keeping guns safe and keeping them out of the hands of criminals," Abbott said.

Texas wasn't the only state where reducing gun violence in schools was brought into focus on Wednesday. Parents in Parkland, Florida, announced the formation of a political action committee called Families vs. Assault Rifles that will take on the NRA's pervasive influence in the political system. "We are going to go up against NRA candidates in every meaningful race in the country," said Jeff Kasky, the father of a student activist who survived the February 14th shooting at Stoneman Douglass High School.

The issue was broached at Wednesday's White House press briefing as well, when a student journalist asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders what the administration plans to do to prevent future school shootings. "We recently had a lockdown drill," the student said. "One thing that affects my and others students' mental health is to worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school."

"I think as a kid and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying than for a kid to go to school and not be able to feel safe, so I'm sorry that you feel that way," a choked-up Sanders replied before noting that the president's school safety commission is meeting this week.

Since the shooting in Parkland, Trump has called for the banning of bump stocks and for raising the minimum legal age to purchase all firearms to 21, although no action has been taken. Earlier this month, Trump spoke at a national NRA convention in Dallas. "Your rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your president!" the president said.