As NPR reports, “Citing a need to make ‘our schools and our state a safer place,’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a slate of policy and legislative changes on Wednesday that range from boosting security at schools to doing more to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
What does that mean? Well . . .
First Abbott wants to harden schools against attack. He’d limit entry points and equip buildings with alarms that are different than standard fire alarms. That would prevent students from pouring out into hallways, becoming easy targets for a shooter who pulls a fire alarm.
He also want to expand the existing school marshal program that allows teachers and staff to carry firearms in schools.
“When an active shooter situation arises, the difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds. Trained security personnel can make all the difference.”
He’s proposing to have more police officers in schools, making the buildings part of their regular rounds (aren’t they already?) and providing a spot for cops on campus to take breaks or fill out reports. The Governor figures the more time officers spend in schools, the better.
Abbott also wants to speed up the process of reporting individuals who have been adjudicated as “mentally unfit to have a gun.” That might stop a would-be shooter from buying a firearm through an FFL. It would have done nothing, however, in the case of the Santa Fe shooter, who simply opened his father’s closet and grabbed a shotgun and a revolver.
As for identifying potential shooters before they open fire . . .
Noting that social media often contains clues of shooters’ intentions before they act, Abbott said he wants to expand a program that has been tested in West Texas, which “uses mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence,” Abbott said. Called the Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral (or TWITR) Project, the approach has been led by Texas Tech University.
He’s also going to ask the Texas legislature to consider a bill creating so-called gun violence restraining orders or a “red flag” law. That would allow relatives or others to petition a court to confiscate the guns of someone suspected to be a danger to himself or others.
The problem with such an approach is that it’s open to abuse by vindictive exes or others and the laws are frequently written in such a way as to infringe on the gun owner’s due process rights. Guns are confiscated first, and only then can the owner petition to have them returned.
Then the governor also announced a technological step:
“We want action to prevent another shooting” like Santa Fe, Abbott said.
To improve the ability to alert schools and officials to potential risks, Abbott said the state will expand crime stopper programs and make it easier for students to report possible threats — something he said could be helped by a new app called iWatchTX, which the governor said will be activated next month.
How this would improve on simply dialing 911 isn’t clear. And if you’ve read our post earlier today about false reports made by Florida students, you can see the possibility for abuse in a system like that.