Texas gun legislation are changes coming, What's Your Point?

This week's panel: Wayne Dolcefino, media consultant;  Charles Blain, Urban Reform; Carmen Roe, legal analyst and Houston attorney; Antonio Diaz-, writer, educator and radio host; Michelle Maples, conservative attorney; Anthony Graves, criminal justice advocate; join Greg Groogan to discuss recent proposals to change Texas gun legislation including "red flag laws" and ending stranger to stranger fun sales.

AUSTIN - September 5, 2019  Governor Greg Abbott has issued eight executive orders in response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa.

Gov. Abbott says in a press release that the orders have been issued to help prevent further mass shootings by enhancing reporting requirements and making sure that law enforcement and the public have what they need to provide and respond to Suspicious Activity Reports.

The executive orders are as follows:

Order No. 1 Within thirty days of this order, the Texas Department of Public Safety shall develop standardized intake questions that can be used by all Texas law-enforcement agencies to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.

Order No. 2 Within thirty days of this order, the Department of Public Safety shall develop clear guidance, based on the appropriate legal standard, for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.

Order No. 3 Within sixty days of this order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shall make training available to educate all law-enforcement officers regarding the standards that will be developed pursuant to Order No. 1 and Order No. 2.

Order No. 4 The Department of Public Safety shall create and conduct an initiative to raise public awareness and understanding of how Suspicious Activity Reports are used by law-enforcement agencies to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats, so that the general public and friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates will be more likely to report information about potential gunmen.

Order No. 5 The Department of Public Safety shall work with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on ways to better inform schools, students, staff, and families about the importance of Suspicious Activity Reports and how to initiate that process.

Order No. 6 The Department of Public Safety shall work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessment teams for each of its regions, and when appropriate shall coordinate with federal partners.

Order No. 7 The Department of Public Safety, as well as the Office of the Governor, shall use all available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in Texas for the purpose of better collecting and responding to Suspicious Activity Reports, and better monitoring and analyzing social media and other online forums, for potential threats. 

Order No. 8 Beginning January 1, 2020, all future grant awards from the Office of the Governor to counties shall require a commitment that the county will report at least 90 percent of convictions within seven business days to the Criminal Justice Information System at the Department of Public Safety.  By January 1, 2021, such reporting must take place within five business days.

Gov. Abbott says the action taken today is a starting point to keep Texas communities safe. He says he will be releasing a report of findings and recommendations from the Texas Safety Commission meetings next week to further advance solutions and jumpstart legislative action.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - August 23, 2019  Texas' muscular gun-rights lobby swiftly pushed back after Gov. Greg Abbott raised the possibility of tighter firearms laws in response to a gunman killing 22 people at an El Paso Walmart.

The resistance could test the relationship between gun-rights groups, Abbott and the state's Republican leadership, which eased gun restrictions after previous mass shootings in 2017 and 2018.

Before Abbott could even convene a closed-door meeting Thursday at the Capitol with lawmakers and law enforcement in response to the El Paso shooting, gun-rights advocates rallied outside. Several demonstrators openly carried assault-style rifles, and demanded Texas not infringe on their liberty.

After the meeting, the governor raised alarms about the inability to track private gun sales, which are largely unregulated and don't require a background check. Hours later, the Texas State Rifle Association emailed its members with a response to calls for new gun restrictions.

"NO, NO and NO," wrote Alice Tripp, the NRA-affiliated group's legislative director and lobbyist, a powerful figure around Texas politics for the last two decades. "This country, this state, has mountains of existing gun law being ignored or under prosecuted."

Tripp said it was Democratic lawmakers from El Paso in the meeting who pushed for more gun laws. But it was Abbott who publicly questioned private gun sales and cited a "danger" in who might be buying and selling in that weapons market.

"Right now there is nothing in law that would prevent one stranger from selling a gun to a terrorist," Abbott said, "and obviously that's a danger that needs to be looked into."

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, an El Paso Democrat, said the governor was pushing for ideas on guns laws.

Abbott was "really pushing people to explore where are the gaps in existing law, and secondly where do we need some additional laws that are possible solutions to some of these issues," Rodriguez said.

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. Gun rights activists are closely watching what he does next.

The governor has another meeting scheduled in El Paso next week. The Legislature doesn't meet until 2021, after the 2020 elections, and Abbott has shown no sign of calling lawmakers into special session.

Abbott held similar meetings in 2018 after mass shootings at a church in Sutherland Springs a high school near Houston. He later released a 43-page report which called for lawmakers to at least consider so-called "red flag" laws and tougher restrictions on home gun storage.

Gun-rights advocates pounced and he quickly backed away from anything critics deemed gun control. Abbott instead signed a series of new laws expanding gun rights pushed by the Legislature's Republican majority.

Those included easing restrictions on where firearms can be carried, from schools to churches, apartments and foster homes, and barred cities from passing their own gun and ammunition sales limits. Lawmakers also approved putting more armed personnel in schools.

Thursday's gun-rights rally outside the Capitol included members of Open Carry Texas and Gun Owners of America. Both groups complained they were left out of Abbott's meeting.

"There's a lot of worry among the grassroots that our Republican politicians are losing their loyalty to defending Constitutional rights," said Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham. "This is the habit of Greg Abbott. The people make it known we don't like this and he backs off. It makes us wonder where does he really stand, and where would he be without grassroots?"

Also at the rally was Stephen Willeford, who was hailed as a hero for shooting back and wounding the gunman who killed more than two dozen people at the Sutherland Springs church in 2017.

Standing at the gate to the Capitol grounds, Willeford held up the AR-15 rifle he used that day, which still has police evidence tags attached and hasn't been fired since.

"I used this rifle to defend my community," Willeford said. "Without my Second Amendment, I would not have had this rifle. The shooter would have had his."