AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is asking state leaders to form a special legislative committee in the wake of last week's mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school where 19 students and two teachers were killed.
In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, Abbott outlined topics the committee should consider.
"I request that these committees review what steps previous legislatures have enacted, what resources the State has made available to local school districts, and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive Branch so that meaningful action can be made on, among other things, the following topics to prevent future school shootings:
- School safety
- Mental health
- Social media
- Police training
- Firearm safety
It is important the process begin immediately," Abbott wrote.
The request falls short of growing calls from some Texas House Democrats for Abbott to call a special legislative session.
"We just don't need to take anything for granted, we need to find out everything that happened and that takes time, so part of it is that you don't want to go rushing in to a special session until you do the due diligence of finding out what exactly happened," said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt.
Also Wednesday, Abbott requested a complete safety review of Texas public schools -- including random, unannounced security checks -- in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting.
But Democrats say the governor's efforts are falling short and they want a special session.
"What we've seen Governor Abbott do after Midland-Odessa, after El Paso, after Santa Fe is a call for a committee," State Rep. Ann Johnson said. "And I believe Texans are at a point with us having the highest rate of mass shootings that it is time to do something differently."
"This is up to the people of Texas: Have you had enough? Have you seen enough tiny caskets yet? Are you insistent that the governor call us back to act?" Johnson asked.
In a statement, the Texas State Teachers Association called Abbott's action "very weak."
"Nineteen children and two teachers were killed by an assailant with an assault rifle at an elementary school in Uvalde, and Gov. Abbott’s response is to appoint more committees to study school safety. That’s very weak. The victims’ families and all Texans deserve better than that.
Committees and other groups have studied school safety before, including after the Santa Fe High School shootings in 2018 and the El Paso Walmart shootings in 2019, and schools obviously aren’t safe from mass shooters. This is because the governor and legislators refuse to address the real issue and enact reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. The governor didn’t even put this issue on the agenda for the new committees.
The 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde legally purchased the assault rifle, and that should not have been allowed to happen. And only last year, lawmakers passed and Abbott signed a law allowing most adults to carry handguns without any state licensing or safety training.
Guns kill people, including school children and educators, and there are too many guns out there in the possession of dangerous people. It doesn’t take more committees to figure that out."
Abbott said last week that existing laws would not have stopped the rampage in Uvalde.
"Evil stole those gifts from their parents on Tuesday," Abbott said during a recorded video message played for the NRA Convention last week. "And also remember this. There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms. Laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities."