Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has introduced a 44-page plan designed to keep schools safer through increased law enforcement, more armed school personnel, better threat assessment, and better mental health interventions.
“This plan is a starting point, not an ending place,” said Governor Abbott. “It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer.”
The “School Firearm Safety Action Plan” is the result of a series of roundtable discussions hosted by the governor in the wake of the massacre in Santa Fe, Texas, earlier this month that left 10 people dead.
The recommendations focus primarily on school security, but Abbott also proposes five firearm-related measures. These include proposals that shore up criminal reporting that might affect NICS background checks and one that requires the mandatory reporting of lost firearms.
The plan also addresses Texas’ Safe Firearm Storage Law, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks. The law only allows parents to be prosecuted for unsafe storage if their child is under 17 years of age, which saved the father of the Santa Fe murderer from liability.
Abbott wants to “strengthen” the law by raising the age to 18, increasing the penalty level to a 3rd-degree felony when access results in death or serious bodily injury, and removing the “readily dischargeable” statutory definition. Under Abbott’s plan, in other words, a parent would be liable even if a child gained access to an empty firearm.
Finally, the plan encourages the state legislature to “consider the merits” of allowing courts to issue “red flag” or “extreme risk” protective orders. These orders allow law enforcement, a family member, school employee, or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a person suspected to be dangerous to himself or to others.
The governor insists that such a law must provide due process by providing the person both a notice and a hearing. These protective orders would also be for a limited duration, provide for mental health treatment, and have a clear path to the full restoration of rights and return of firearms when the person is no longer a danger.
On the school security side, the governor proposed a wide variety of measures, including an increased law enforcement presence, behavior threat assessment programs, more secure school infrastructure, and active shooter and emergency response training.
Abbott also includes a lengthy section outlining how the school marshal program might be expanded. This program allows school districts to identify and train personnel, including teachers, to respond to active shooter situations with firearms.
Currently, school marshals who have direct contact with students are required to store their firearms in a safe while on campus, making the weapon hard to access and use in the event of a crisis. Abbott’s proposal would rescind this requirement, allowing marshals to keep their firearms on their person.
The plan would also allow twice as many marshals to be appointed, fund training, and revamp the training to focus more on firearms use.
“Arming teachers, and not knowing who is armed, that is what we need,” said a Santa Fe senior who participated in the governor’s roundtable discussion. Her sentiment, according to Abbott’s plan, was shared by many students and parents.
The governor says he has identified nearly $110 million in total funding, including $70 million that is already or will soon be available. Additionally, Abbott has identified a specific need for $30 million that he will work with the legislature to fund next session.