Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and State Rep. Dade Phelan on June 1, requesting that they form special legislative committees to “reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence” after the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
The House and Senate committees will identify “meaningful” actions to prevent future shootings at schools. The mass shooting at Robb Elementary claimed the life of 21.
“As Texans mourn the tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week, we as a State must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence,” the letter reads. “As leaders, we must come together at this time to provide solutions to protect all Texans. Accordingly, I hereby request that each of you convene a special legislative committee. I look forward to working with you both on this important mission to make Texas safer, and I stand ready to provide any and all support.”
The letter continues, the committees should review previous actions by the legislature, identify available resources, and provide recommendations to the current Legislative and Executive branches.
Abbott noted five topics that he believes a special committee should investigate: school safety, mental health, social media, police training, and firearm safety.
Each of these areas were identified as a point of weakness leading to the shooting deaths of 19 fourth graders and two teachers at Uvalde.
Patrick announced on Wednesday he formed the Special Senate Committee to Protect All Texans. The committee is comprised of eight Republicans and three Democrats and is tasked with holding hearings to address the five topics Abbott proposed.
“I have asked Chair [Sen. Robert] Nichols (R-Jacksonville) to hold his hearing on June 23 or a date shortly thereafter. I want to give the families and the community of Uvalde time to complete all funeral services before beginning hearings so those who wish to testify may take part,” the letter states. “I have asked Chair Nichols to coordinate with the House of Representatives Chair to hold their hearings on the same date, if possible, to accommodate both invited and public witnesses.”
“All of us working together is the answer. Now is not the time for politics. It is all about doing all we can so that we never see another tragedy like this happen again in Texas,” said Patrick.
Some opponents have already signaled the creation of special committees to investigate the problems is an inadequate response to what some view as the root of the problem. Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke blamed Abbott directly for the shooting.
O’Rourke tweeted that “anyone can call for a committee, only a Governor can call for a special session,” after hearing news that Abbott had requested the hearings. The difference between a committee and a session is that the committee focuses on providing information, while a session focuses on changing or enacting laws.
State Sen. Cesar Blanco also criticized Abbott in a letter Wednesday. Blanco said solutions to the problem are “ready now,” referring to a package of gun control proposals he prepared following the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting.
The bills proposed by Blanco include mandatory background checks, prohibitions on who may possess a firearm, cooperation between social media companies and law enforcement, and declaring gun violence a national health crisis.