Shortly after the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott called on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas State Rep. and Speaker Dade Phelan to convene special legislative committees. Their task was to identify steps the State could take to prevent further violence on school campuses.
Gov. Abbott issued a press release on Monday commending both state officials for quickly proposing school safety solutions and working to rapidly address the five topics that the governor’s office had determined were critical elements of security plans for all Texans.
“I applaud both the Lt. Governor and Speaker for quickly offering proposals that can immediately make schools safer, provide needed mental health support, and help our law enforcement officers on the front lines,” Abbott wrote in the press release. “I also thank them for quickly organizing special legislative committees to deliberate and propose solid solutions to address public and school safety.”
Among the first steps taken by the State was the allocation of $50 million in funds to provide safety equipment for campus police departments. Such equipment would include body shields that can be used as barricades when officers confront an active shooter, such as at Robb Elementary.
“This is just the beginning of the process of appropriately equipping all law enforcement with another important tool to provide a speedy response to any threat,” wrote Lt. Gov. Patrick in a June 13 letter to Speaker Phelan. “As we move forward, this will require additional funds to ensure all officers across the state will have immediate access to these shields.”
Speaker Phelan also proposed shifting about $100 million in already-appropriated funds to expand mental health care and improve school safety. The funding process is known as “budget execution” and foregoes some of the red tape that typically delays project funding.
“I believe our respective chambers have the obligation to take immediate, concrete action with the goal of making our schools as safe as possible before the start of the upcoming school year,” wrote Speaker Phelan in a June 12 letter to Patrick. “The coming year will bring many debates and policy discussions about how our state approaches the issue of school safety, mental health, police training, firearm safety, and more, and I look forward to working with you in this important mission to make Texas a safer place.”
Some state Democrats have called the moves inadequate, claiming that the only meaningful path forward is reducing legal access to firearms, seeking to ban the sale of firearms to individuals younger than 21, and restricting magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Notably, the individual who committed the Uvalde school shooting purchased semi-automatic rifles shortly after his 18th birthday.
“The fact of the matter is that guns are the issue,” wrote Co-Executive Director of the Texas Democratic Party Jamarr Brown in response to the letters from Patrick and Phelan. “Yes, we need more mental health support, and our schools need to be properly upgraded—but those are distractions from the issue at hand: that an 18-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war and use it to slaughter a classroom of children and teachers.”
In 2020, 45,222 Americans died due to firearms, according to the Pew Research Center. Slightly more than half of those deaths were ruled suicides. Of the remaining 13,620 gun-related homicides, nearly 60% were caused by handguns. Only 3% were attributed to rifles, including the type of weapon used in Uvalde.
Definitions of mass-shooting events vary from one source to another. For example, the FBI describes mass-shooting events as “active shooter incidents.” Conversely, the Gun Violence Archive describes mass shooting events as those in which four or more people are killed.