Texas governor suggests voluntary school safety changes in wake of Santa Fe shooting

Gov. Greg Abbott released the report Wednesday.

May 31, 2018, 10:58 AM

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a series of voluntary proposals to improve school safety in the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting earlier this month.

The report includes proposals that promote safe gun storage practices, increasing law enforcement presence at schools, hardening school campuses, providing mental health evaluations and preparing students and teachers to respond to active shooter emergencies, among the other proposals.

Two of the recommendations in the report address keeping guns out of potentially dangerous people. Those proposals are: a mandatory two-day waiting period; and the suggestion of a protective order to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unfit.

The report, released Wednesday, also calls for more school marshal funding, which would cover the hiring of more marshals and training, as well a suggestion to remove the requirement that mandates marshals need to store their guns.

The report comes after the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two educators dead and 13 others wounded. A student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, was arrested and charged with the shootings.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to the media during a press conference about the shooting incident at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018 in Santa Fe, Texas. Standing from left, Judge Mark Henry, Sen.Ted Cruz, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to the media during a press conference about the shooting incident at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018 in Santa Fe, Texas. Behind him are, from left, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, Sen.Ted Cruz, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Bob Levey/Getty Images, FILE

Abbott held days of meetings to discuss ideas to address school safety in the wake of the shooting.

The recommendations themselves are voluntary, and it is up to schools if they choose to adopt them both for the end of this school year or use the summer to prepare to enforce the different suggestions in the next academic year starting this fall.

Some of the proposals would require a change in state laws, which would come at the hands of the Texas state Senate and House. The Legislature will not meet again until 2019, according to the Associated Press.

The proposed protective order, which the report stresses would come "only after legal due process is allowed to ensure Second Amendment rights are not violated," is to "encourage" state legislators to consider the merits of such a law, rather than urging its adoption outright, according to the report.

"This plan is a starting point, not an ending place," Abbott, a Republican, said in a news release announcing the report.

"It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer," he said.

Senior Amy Roden, who knew one of the victims, and her grandmother Gail, embrace at a makeshift memorial for shooting victims outside Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 20, 2018.
Michael Stravato/The New York Times, FILE

A spokeswoman for the NRA-affiliated Texas State Rifle Association said the proposals wouldn't sacrifice protections for gun owners, according to the Associated Press.

"Gov. Abbott has pledged due process," the spokeswoman, Alice Tripp, told the AP. "He's a gun owner himself."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott changed the state's gun laws approximately three weeks after the Parkland High School shooting, during which 17 people were killed. Scott signed a bill that included a number of gun law reforms, including a mandatory three-day waiting period to buy a gun and raising the age to buy a rifle to 21 years old.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act in the governor's office at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., March 9, 2017.
Mark Wallheiser/AP Photo, FILE

Scott, also a Republican, was surrounded by parents of the Parkland shooting victims on March 9 when he signed the law, which also included a measure to arm some teachers and other school personnel who undergo special training sanctioned by the state. There was a provision that allows school districts that don't want to participate to opt out of the program.

Abbott, meanwhile, announced the roundtable discussions that preceded the report about six hours after the Santa Fe shooting. At the time, Abbott said the goal of the discussions would be "putting together laws that will protect Second Amendment rights but at the same time ensure that our communities and especially our schools are safer places."

"We need to do more than just pray for the victims and the families," he said.