Texas governor issues 8 executive orders after mass shootings

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued eight executive orders Thursday in response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa. (File)
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued eight executive orders Thursday in response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa intended to enhance reporting requirements and to ensure that both law enforcement officers and members of the public are equipped to provide and respond to reports of suspicious activity.

"Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings,” Abbott said.

"One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders. But more must be done. I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans,” he said.

In the aftermath of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso that left 22 dead, authorities determined that the mother of the accused gunman had called the Allen Police Department to express concern about her son’s maturity and lack of experience in handling an assault-style rifle, but was told that based on the information she provided her son was legally allowed to purchase such a weapon.

And the man accused of killing seven and wounding more than 20 others last Saturday in a series of random shootings that stretched from Midland to Odessa called 911 as well as an FBI hotline before embarking on the rampage.

The directives are aimed at helping “close the information gaps when suspicion of a potential mass shooter arises,” the governor’s office said in a press release Thursday.

Legislative solutions are still needed, however, the press release said.

On Wednesday, Abbott, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, rejected calls for Democrats for a special session of the Texas Legislature to consider new safeguards.

Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, issued a statement in which she said the orders “do nothing to address the fundamental problem.”

“These solutions will do nothing to change an atmosphere where our children’s most significant school lessons are active shooter drills. It’s time for our state leaders to be as outraged as their constituents and stand up with courage to take on the tough issues related to guns.”

Governor’s executive orders

Order No. 1
Within thirty days of this order, the Texas Department of Public Safety shall develop standardized intake questions that can be used by all Texas law-enforcement agencies to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.

Order No. 2
Within thirty days of this order, the Department of Public Safety shall develop clear guidance, based on the appropriate legal standard, for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.

Order No. 3
Within sixty days of this order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shall make training available to educate all law-enforcement officers regarding the standards that will be developed pursuant to Order No. 1 and Order No. 2.
Order No. 4
The Department of Public Safety shall create and conduct an initiative to raise public awareness and understanding of how Suspicious Activity Reports are used by law-enforcement agencies to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats, so that the general public and friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates will be more likely to report information about potential gunmen.

Order No. 5
The Department of Public Safety shall work with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on ways to better inform schools, students, staff, and families about the importance of Suspicious Activity Reports and how to initiate that process.

Order No. 6
The Department of Public Safety shall work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessment teams for each of its regions, and when appropriate shall coordinate with federal partners.

Order No. 7
The Department of Public Safety, as well as the Office of the Governor, shall use all available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in Texas for the purpose of better collecting and responding to Suspicious Activity Reports, and better monitoring and analyzing social media and other online forums, for potential threats.

Order No. 8
Beginning January 1, 2020, all future grant awards from the Office of the Governor to counties shall require a commitment that the county will report at least 90 percent of convictions within seven business days to the Criminal Justice Information System at the Department of Public Safety. By January 1, 2021, such reporting must take place within five business days.

(Source: Texas Governor’s Office)