Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen at a meeting of the Texas Safety Commission at the Texas Capitol on Aug. 22, 2019. Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday convened the first meeting of the newly formed Texas Safety Commission, ramping up the state’s efforts to devise policy solutions in the wake of the deadly shooting targeting immigrants and Hispanics earlier this month in El Paso.
For over four hours, the commission — which includes state leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement officials — met behind closed doors at the Capitol in what Abbott described as the “next step to make sure that we respond robustly and rapidly to the” El Paso attack.
Speaking with reporters at the end of the meeting, Abbott rattled off a long list of items that were discussed — stronger threat assessment efforts, better collaboration between social media companies and law enforcement, strengthening the state’s domestic terrorism law. He also broached more politically sensitive issues related to guns, saying there was discussion surrounding red flag laws — or at least an alternative to them — background checks and assault weapons.
“I think the conversation went in a lot of different directions,” state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, told reporters after the meeting. “Guns were discussed extensively — what we have under current law, what we can do under potential news laws. I think everything was on the table.”
“It was a very open and candid conversation and I’m certainly encouraged by the fact we’re trying to build consensus” around the issues, added Moody, the House speaker pro tem.
Twenty-two people were killed and more than two dozen wounded in the El Paso shooting, which took place Aug. 3 at a Walmart. Authorities believe the gunman, who was arrested and charged with capital murder, published an anti-immigrant manifesto shortly before the massacre, railing against a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Thursday was the first of two meetings that are planned for the safety commission, with the second one scheduled for next Thursday in El Paso. The meetings are similar to a series of roundtables that Abbott held in the wake of the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, and he presented a stack of papers to reporters Thursday to illustrate how many proposals came out of those roundtables that he signed into law.
Like he did after the Santa Fe roundtables, Abbott plans to issue a report with recommendations following the post-El Paso meetings. The governor, who has resisted pleas by some House Democrats to call a special session after El Paso, said the commission will focus on “ideas and suggestions that can lead to laws” but emphasized the state can take more immediate action without legislation.
More than 20 people were killed in an Aug. 3, 2019, shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman was arrested and charged with capital murder for the shooting in El Paso, which is recoveringfrom what federal law enforcement has classified as an act of domestic terrorism.