On Wednesday, Gov. Abbott sounded like a leader who is serious about preventing future school shootings.
In Dallas, he unveiled his 40- page, “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan,” aimed at taking action now to do some practical things that will protect children.
Good. Let’s make Texas schools safer before students return in the fall.
Governor, call that special session of the legislature- something you say you’re willing to do - and press our lawmakers to adopt and fund some of these school safety measures.
And let’s have the session this summer, even though lawmakers running for election in November may want to wait.
Abbott’s blueprint for how to move forward comes almost two weeks after a 17-year old student opened fire at Santa Fe High School near Houston, killing 10 and wounding at least 10 more. The governor met with student survivors, educators, safety experts and lawmakers, asking for their ideas on how to move forward.
We know many Texans who want stronger gun control will be disappointed — even angry— that this plan doesn’t include a call to strengthen background checks by eliminating the gun show loophole, or a ban on the sale of assault weapons.
We should continue that debate. But let’s face it, the divisions are so deep we won’t see any results on those things soon, especially not in an NRA stronghold like Texas.
In the meantime, then, let’s support something that will make Texas children and teachers safer soon.
On gun access, the plan recommends lawmakers adopt a “red flag” law that would more easily allow the removal of guns from a potentially dangerous person after a legal process.
It recommends strengthening Texas’ firearm storage law aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of children under 18, and making it a violation when a child gains access to a gun, even if it’s not loaded with ammunition.
A primary focus is to increase the number of law enforcement officers on campuses, and train educators who are willing to serve as armed school marshals.
Arming teachers isn’t something a lot of districts, including Fort Worth, want to do, and that’s OK. But smaller districts like Argyle that don’t have police on every campus have adopted teacher marshal programs their communities support, and so far they appear to be effective.
The safety plan recommends making school buildings less structurally vulnerable; using social media and better reporting to identify possible shooters; and providing a known mental health program that identifies and provides help for students at risk of harming others.
It would cost about $20 million alone to make the proven mental health services available across the state, and just about everything else proposed has a price tag, too.
But if state lawmakers can come up with $800 million for border security, a federal responsibility, they can certainly find money for school security.
It comes down to political courage and setting the right priorities.