AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Governor Greg Abbott hosted a meeting Wednesday with statewide officials and members of the El Paso state delegation following the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday, that killed 22 people and injured 24.
The Governor’s Office said elected leaders “collaborated on potential strategies to improve the safety and security of Texas communities.”
The Governor said Wednesday, “Our job is to keep Texans safe. We take that job seriously. We will act swiftly and aggressively to achieve it.”
Governor Abbott also announced a series of upcoming roundtable discussions with elected leaders and experts to develop meaningful solutions.
The Governor was joined by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, Senator Jose Rodriguez, and Representatives Cesar Blanco, Art Fierro, Mary Gonzales, Joe Moody, and Lina Ortega for the meeting.
“The entire state of Texas continues to grieve the tragedy in El Paso,” said Governor Abbott. “While our hearts remain broken, it is our responsibility to show the resolve that is needed to address this shooting and begin the process of working together to lay a groundwork of how we are going to respond. The people of Texas — including the people of El Paso — deserve to be safe, and it is our responsibility to ensure that safety.”
The Governor said the roundtables would take place in El Paso, Austin, and possibly elsewhere later this month.
He also said he and state leaders are open to every idea to protect the people of El Paso and all of Texas from mass shootings.
The roundtables are similar to those he held last year after the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting that led to mental health and school safety initiatives.
The Governor said as before, the discussions will feature experts in a variety of areas. “Experts who’ve dealt with these issues before who can give us advice on laws that can be proposed on executive action I can take and things we can do immediately.”
The Governor’s statements came on the day he, Senator John Cornyn, and Senator Ted Cruz greeted President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump as they arrived in El Paso to meet with survivors, victims’ families, and law enforcement officers and other first responders.
Governor Abbott spoke about the recent discussion he had with the President. “I’ve had conversations with both the President and Vice President for them to reaffirm their commitment to assisting Texas in responding to this challenge, and we look forward to taking them up on any resources they can provide to us.”
At the White House Wednesday morning, President Trump expressed his interest in developing red flag laws to keep guns away from dangerous people and expanding background checks for gun purchases. “There’s a great appetite and I mean a very strong appetite for background checks and I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve neverr had before. I think Republicans and Democrats are getting close to doing something on background checks.”
Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey of Fort Worth said he’s willing to work on red flag laws, but says Democrats are waiting for Republicans to act on background checks. “He should tell Mitch McConnell that the Senate needs to come out of recess and that they need to do their work and that they need to pass it and send it to his desk. That’s what he needs to say. We’ve passed a background check bill. It’s sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk right now.”
Senator Cornyn, who will be in Grapevine Thursday, said Senator McConnell “Has tasked members of the Senate to come together to see what sort of legislative responses might be appropriate, and some of the work we’ve done in the past, I think is helpful, but it doesn’t cover something quite like this.”
Governor Abbott also announced that the state of Texas will be providing over $5.5 million in immediate financial assistance through the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Public Safety Office for law enforcement agencies and the community of El Paso.
$550,000 in financial grant assistance will be administered to law enforcement agencies that bravely responded to the shooting on August 3, 2019 to aid in reimbursement for overtime costs.
$5 million in financial grant assistance will be administered through the following services and initiatives throughout the El Paso community:
Psychological First Aid: Through the Local Mental Health Authority Emergence Health Network, psychological first aid and crisis counseling is available immediately and will be offered free of charge and long-term to survivors and those in the community experiencing vicarious trauma.
State Behavioral Health Services: At the request of Governor Abbott, Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has deployed CJD-funded staff from HHSC’s Disaster Behavioral Health Services section to coordinate behavioral health assistance to the local community, conduct behavioral needs assessments, and provide strategic planning and care coordination with local service providers.
County Reimbursements: The state can aid the prosecution of the alleged suspect through funding streams available at CJD. This includes expert witness fees, investigation, increased security, juror fees, and more. Indigent defense or related defense costs are not eligible. Costs associated with overtime for El Paso County’s Office of the Medical Examiner and Sheriff’s Office for increased correctional needs are also eligible.
School-Based Mental Health Services: CJD is offering funds to ensure Independent School Districts have the on-site resources they need to support students affected directly or indirectly. Referrals for youths with higher acuity behavioral health and psychological needs will also be available.
Family Resiliency Center (FRC): To support the long-term needs of the community, CJD will provide funding to establish an FRC in El Paso. As implemented in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and other communities that experienced a mass shooting, the FRC will be a focal point for community services including mental health needs, legal services, faith-based assistance, and public information.
Post Critical Incident Seminars (PCIS): PCIS is an intensively focused therapeutic seminar with an emphasis on peer support to assist first responders suffering from traumatic stress. These seminars are eligible for CJD funding.