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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Holds School Safety Discussions After Deadly Shooting


There aren't many new details that have come to light today in the wake of Friday's shootings at a Texas high school. Ten people died and 13 others were injured. As investigators try to piece together what happened and why, the governor of Texas hosted the first of three roundtable discussions on school safety. The governor has said people need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. NPR's John Burnett joins us now from member station KUT in Austin. John, thanks for being here.


CORNISH: So why did the governor say he was organizing this roundtable about school violence? What does he actually hope to accomplish?

BURNETT: Well, Governor Abbott was present at the aftermath of the two mass shootings that are among the worst in contemporary Texas history. He talked to the survivors, and he was visibly shaken. This was Sutherland Springs Baptist Church back in November where more than two dozen worshippers were killed and the Santa Fe High School rampage on Friday morning. So this is the first of three meetings he's hurriedly convened, and here's what he said this afternoon right before reporters were ushered out of the room. Here's Governor Abbott.


GREG ABBOTT: Today is the first of three days of roundtables to address gun violence in Texas with a single goal, and that is to ensure that we develop strategies that will prevent a replication of the shooting that took place in Santa Fe, prevent a replication of the shooting that took place in Sutherland Springs.

BURNETT: And, really, all issues will be on the table that deal with school safety - arming teachers, putting an armed, trained school marshal at every public school campus in Texas, reducing the number of outside doors at high schools. Should metal detectors be installed at school entrances? Is bullying causing students to go over the edge? Is it too easy to obtain a firearm in Texas? And does the state need a red flag law to take guns out of the hands of unstable people?

CORNISH: And who has a seat at this table?

BURNETT: Well, today, the subject matter was school and community safety, and it's actually a big square table in the governor's public reception room there in the state capitol building. All the state political leaders were there - the House speaker and the leader of the Senate and the heads of the committees who could take up eventual legislation. The largest group was school district officials from around the state. And next came law enforcement experts, and some of them were versed in this now-specialized field of how to confront an active shooter. There was an architect there to discuss school design.

Tomorrow, it's going to get interesting. That's when Abbott has invited a gun control group, Texas Gun Sense, as well as the Second Amendment folks. And then on Thursday, it's likely to get emotional. Survivors and victims' families from Santa Fe and Sutherland Springs are coming to the capitol to say what solutions they recommend for this rash of mass shootings.

CORNISH: How unusual is this for this governor to bring together all these people?

BURNETT: Well, Greg Abbott has been an enemy of gun control. He has an A rating from the NRA. He once said at a press conference, I will sign whatever legislation reaches my desk that expands Second Amendment rights in Texas. Both he and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who's also an NRA favorite, have suggested gun safety laws may need to be tightened after this school shooting last week. We know that the young man who's been charged with shooting his classmates used a shotgun and a handgun that legally belonged to his father. Should the state of Texas force parents to lock up their firearms and keep them out of the hands of children when they're not hunting or target shooting? But remember; the suspect is not a child. He's 17 years old, and that's an adult under Texas law. So tighter gun safety rules might not have had an effect on this tragedy.

CORNISH: And what happens after this? What's going to come out of these discussions?

BURNETT: Well, the governor said today he's just gathering information from the best sources he can think of. He could take immediate executive action, or he could wait until next January when the legislature comes back to town. And it seems likely they will take up new laws to prevent this surge of gun violence in Texas.

CORNISH: That's NPR's John Burnett. John, thank you.

BURNETT: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.