(CNSNews.com) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed eight executive orders Thursday on guns aimed at stopping mass shootings like the ones in El Paso, Midland and Odessa through better reporting of potential threats to public safety.
"Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings" the governor said in a statement. "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."
The first executive order calls for the state’s Department of Public Safety to develop “standardized intake questions” to be used by all law enforcement agencies in the state “to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.”
The second executive order mandates that within 30 days, the Department of Public Safety “develop clear guidance … for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.”
Within 60 days of the executive order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement is required to provide training to all law enforcement on the standards that will be developed in the first and second executive order.
The fourth executive order mandates the Department of Public Safety to “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.”
The fifth executive order calls for the Department of Public Safety to “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.”
Sixth, the Department of Public Safety is required to “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.”
The seventh executive order calls on the Department of Public Safety and the governor’s office to use all resources available 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.”
And lastly, starting Jan. 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.”
Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick told Fox News on Friday that the administration has a “multi-level approach” to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while safeguarding the rights of law-abiding citizens throughout the state.
“First of all, the governor had his executive orders. We want to be sure we do everything we can to identify potentially dangerous shooters before they commit their evil act. We have a list of the series of charges we'll begin hearing starting later this month in the Texas Senate and in the Texas House to look at a variety of issues to focus on keeping the guns out of hands of people that are felons, people that have serious mental issues while protecting our Second Amendment rights,” he said.
“One of the ways we can do that, Julie, that I believe, and I'm a strong NRA supporter, and they are a strong supporter of mine, but I believe they're wrong in not expanding background checks to stopping strangers from selling guns to strangers,” Patrick said.
“We don't have all the details yet, Julie, but it appears the Midland shooter may have purchased his gun from a total stranger. We want to protect families selling to family and friends without background checks, but about 10% to 15% of all guns bought in this country are bought stranger to stranger. They don't know who they are selling to. Could be a felon or someone getting ready to rob a bank or commit a mass act of violence. We have to stop the stranger to stranger sales,” he said.
Fox News’ Julie Banderas noted that the El Paso suspect’s mother alerted the police weeks before the shooting massacre, while the Midland-Odessa gunman had called local and federal authorities prior to the shooting spree.
“That is hard to swallow. It's an information gap basically for these repeated shootings. How will these new orders prevent mass shooters who should have been stopped in the first place?” Banderas asked.
“Well, one of the things, Julie, that the governor wants to do and we want to do in the Texas Senate be sure we have the best fusion center in the country so that we have information that comes up from a call-in like the mother who called about the El Paso shooter. She called into the Allen Police Department, but nothing was done with that lead when she called in,” Patrick said.
“The governor's executive orders and laws we will pass will try to be sure we implement quickly with the executive orders and then into law that police must have a system of all of our police departments that when they get a call like that they turn it into the Suspicious Activity Center so that we can immediately follow up on that. So that's number one we have to do. That call did not go through,” he said.
“In terms of the Midland shooter, well he was someone who had called police a number of times. In fact, when he was fired from his job last Saturday, not only did the person who fired him call 911, but so did the shooter call 911, and he had a lot of issues that will I think come out in the future of his past difficulties, but we have to identify these people, and that's getting accurate information up to the right channels as quickly as we can, and that's what the governor and I want to do, and that’s what we’re going to do, but once we identify those people, we have to be sure they can't get a gun,” Patrick said.
“Julie, over 3 million people have been stopped from getting firearms through a background check since background checks since 1994, and almost a million of those are convicted felons who tried to get a gun, so they go to the private sector - stranger to stranger. I'll never sell my gun to a total stranger and neither should any law-abiding gun owner,” he said.
President Donald Trump asked for background checks back in early August, Patrick noted, and the White House continues to say they support it. He said Republican voters support it, and the NRA should support it as well.
“Again, Julie, 80% of all people who buy guns in America go through a background check. About 20% do not,” the lieutenant governor said.
“Of those, family and friends should be allowed to still sell their guns to family and friends without a background check, but the stranger to stranger sales - according to statistics, over 90% of all people in prison convicted of a gun crime have purchased their gun from a stranger,” Patrick said.
“There is no need for a stranger to sell another gun to a stranger. That's irresponsible, and the NRA needs to get behind that. That's where Republican voters are. That’s where many Republican legislators are, and I believe that can pass Congress,” he added.