AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – At the first of two roundtable discussions to prevent mass shootings, Governor Abbott vowed action. “We need to make Texas a better place, a safer place. We need to take whatever action needs to be taken to make sure our state is safe for all members of our community.”
For more than four hours at the Capitol Thursday, he met with some state lawmakers, law enforcement officials, representatives from tech giants Twitter, Facebook and Google, mental health experts and those on both sides of the gun control debate.
The roundtable follows the El Paso rampage that killed 22 people, most of them Latinos.
The Governor said one issue they discussed is the the shooter’s mother, who had previously called the Allen Police Department concerned about her son’s assault rifle.
Because the shooter bought it legally, nothing could be done.
Governor Abbott said, “Is there some new type of strategy that we can have that would lead to welfare checks when issues like that are raised?”
The Governor also wants to fix flaws in existing red-flag laws and background check laws to keep guns away from dangerous people.
Among those at the meeting, Democrats who represent El Paso, including Representative Mary Gonzalez. “I’m confident some of the things we talked about particularly enforcement of existing laws are going to be evaluated and we’re going to continue to in El Paso.”
At this latest roundtable, he showed 20 bills he signed into law after this year’s legislative session.
The new laws did not include increased gun restrictions.
Some Democratic State lawmakers from Dallas recently called on the Governor to set a special session in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting.
The Governor has not done so and said, “The levels that are available to the Executive Branch – agencies and the Governor’s office are almost unlimited in our ability to take action swiftly.”
Representative Gonzalez and other Democratic State lawmakers from El Paso said they don’t support a special session because they want to gather information from first responders first and also focus on helping members of their community heal.
Among the roundtable participants, Matthew DeSarno, the Special Agent In Charge of the Dallas FBI, which has had past successes at stopping terrorist attacks in North Texas.
DeSarno said they’ve responded to the evolving threat. “We’re now in a position where we’re focused very heavily on racially-motivated, violent extremists, home-grown violent extremists and those people are here in our communities and our biggest challenge to that is going to be detection.”
He said they are working with Texas DPS and others to identify ways they can become more effective at detecting potential terrorists.
Colonel Steven McCraw, who oversees Texas DPS says they’ve added teams to the regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces that have been in place for years.
“We put more DPS special agents on those task forces, DPS domestic teams which we’ve done. They’re multi-disciplinary to support the JTTF’s because there are many leads that have to be followed up on.”
Governor Abbott will hold his second roundtable next Thursday in El Paso and he announced his Domestic Terrorism Task Force will meet next week as well.
The Governor said his proposed solutions will come soon after.