April 20, 2024

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called for a special committee of the state legislature in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

Abbott tweeted a letter he sent to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan asking them to call for a special committee that will “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 Executive Branch so that meaningful action can be made.” 

Abbott said he wants the committee to study what action can be made to prevent future school shootings, specifically by focusing on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.”

The move was immediately criticized by Abbott’s Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who said the governor should call for a full session of the legislature. O’Rourke plans to unveil his plan for school safety at a forum in Dallas on Wednesday night.

“Anyone can call for a committee,” O’Rourke tweeted. “Only a governor can call a special session. Do your job.”

Mass Shooting At Elementary School In Uvalde, Texas Leaves At Least 21 Dead
Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference about the mass shooting as he sits with Christina Mitchell Busbee, 38th Judicial District Attorney and Mayor Don McLaughlin at Uvalde High School on May 27, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. 

Michael M Santiago/GettyImages / Getty Images

Nineteen children and two adults were killed on May 24 at Robb Elementary School by a gunman who had barricaded himself in the school. In the days following the shooting, local and state authorities have provided shifting and often conflicting accounts of the 90 minutes between when the gunman entered the school and when U.S. Border Patrol agents unlocked the classroom door and killed him. The Justice Department said Sunday that it will be conducting a review of the law enforcement response. 

On Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Steven McCraw said the on-site commander “was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize” to get into the classroom.” McCraw said that about 20 officers were standing in the hallway outside the classrooms for roughly 45 minutes.

“Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,” McCraw told reporters.

Abbott, meanwhile, said Friday that he had been “misled” by officials in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Abbott initially had praised the “amazing courage” of law enforcement, for “running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives.” 

Democrats have called for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting. O’Rourke and a number of other prominent Democrats spoke Friday at a protest outside the NRA convention, which was held in Houston just days after the shooting, to call for stricter gun laws. 

All 13 Texas Senate Democrats signed a letter Saturday calling on the state legislature to put forward a law to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 years old.  

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the gunman legally purchased the two semi-automatic rifles used in the shooting just a few weeks earlier prior to shooting, shortly after he turned 18. During the legislative session in 2021, Texas lawmakers loosened gun laws. 

When asked Friday if he would call a special legislative session, Abbott said “all options are on the table” and he said he believed ultimately that laws would be passed. 

“Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes,” Abbott said Friday. “There will be laws in multiple different subject area, but I do fully expect to have every law that we passed in the aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting to be completely revisited.”  

But he essentially ruled out any gun control laws, saying Friday, “my hope is laws are passed, that I will sign, addressing health care in this state.”

Federal lawmakers, including Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, have been meeting to discuss a bipartisan path forward on gun safety legislation. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, said Tuesday that they are making progress as they hammer out details of revised “red flag” legislation that they both hope can win sufficient GOP support to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. 

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