AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Greg Abbott held his first roundtable discussion with the state’s newly formed Texas Safety Commission.
It was created by the governor after the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart earlier this month that left 22 people dead and wounded more than two dozen others.
In the words of the governor, the focus of this new commission is to make Texas better and safer for all its citizens.
The safety commission has a blueprint to follow: Its work will closely mirror the group called together to craft ideas to make schools safer after the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, near Houson.
“In Texas, we believe in one thing, make it two things: Action and results. In the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Santa Fe, we had discussions just like we are having today,” Gov. Abbott said.
On Thursday, Gov. Abbott opened the first meeting of the new Texas Safety Commission.
It’s made up of law enforcement, lawmakers, and others, all of whom are tasked with hardening the state and laws around gun violence.
“I’m hopeful that as a result of all the discussions, and getting so much different input, that there will be change,” State Rep. Evelina "Lina" Ortega said.
They are working to prevent another mass shooting like the one in El Paso.
The shooter, who is from North Texas, confessed and told authorities he specifically traveled there targeting Mexicans because of the Hispanic invasion of Texas.
“There’s no doubt and no question in this room that it was racially-based,” said State Rep. Cesar J. Blanco. “It was a racist white nationalist who did this, and it’s important to recognize that we're going to take actions to try and stop this.”
The safety commission goals include: Community healing for El Paso, combating domestic terrorism threats, and keeping guns out of the hands of deranged individuals.
“The threat has changed from this overseas large scale directed attack threat, to a more homegrown violent extremist racially motivated violent extremist threat, which is single person self-radicalized, quickly mobilizing to violence,” said Matthew De Sarno, Dallas FBI special agent in charge.
Retired Dallas Deputy Chief and Dallas ISD Chief of Police Craig Miller says there should be a statewide shooting response plan, and agrees with the governor that more focus on mental health is critical.
“Not only metropolitan areas, but rural areas as well to get together and formulate a plan of response. What is going to be the fastest way to respond and who should be responding?” Miller said. “And the people that they’ve got at the table today are just the people who can help make those decisions.”
“We need to take whatever action that needs to be taken to make sure our state is going to be safe for all members of our community,” Gov. Abbott said.
The governor said he wants to toughen gun laws, but at the same time, protect Second Amendment rights.
The commission meets again next week in El Paso, and also next week, there will be the first hearing of the state’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force.
That task force is working parallel with the safety commission.