AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – After holding roundtable discussions on how to prevent mass shootings, Governor Greg Abbott issued eight executive orders aimed at gaining more information about potential threats.
UT Dallas Criminology Professor Alex Piquero reviewed the orders. “I think that these are important steps.”
The Governor cited the El Paso shooter’s mother had previously called the Allen Police Department to express concern about the powerful firearm he had.
As a result, one of the Governor’s directs Texas DPS in the next 30 days to develop standardized intake questions used by all state law enforcement agencies when they get that kind of call from the public.
DPS must also develop guidelines on when and how Texas law enforcement should submit Suspicious Activity Reports and within 60 days the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement must educate the public how those reports are used to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats.
Executive director of the ACLU of Texas, Terri Burke had the following response to the orders:
“In the face of the worst month for gun violence in the U.S. this year, Gov. Greg Abbott’s eight executive orders do nothing to address the fundamental problem. Instead, he would have our neighbors spying on each other; the government violate our privacy; executions rushed in a state with a shameful history of convicting the wrong people; and social media monitored in a potential blatant violation of our first amendment rights. These solutions will do nothing to change an atmosphere where our children’s most significant school lessons are active shooter drills. It’s time for our state leaders to be as outraged as their constituents and stand up with courage to take on the tough issues related to guns.”
“You need a set of questions to draw information from people so you need a name of an individual, an appearance of an individual, what kind of threats they are making, and what kind of weapons they may have in their possession,” said Professor Piquero.
DPS would also develop regional threat assessment teams, and along with the Governor’s Office, use available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in the state.
The effort is to improve monitoring and analyzing social media and chat rooms for potential threats.
Last month, Col. Steven McCraw, the Director of Texas DPS, told me the Governor ordered the agency to boost the number of agents at regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces and Regional Fusion Centers to help follow up on tips.
“Taking and vetting and triaging the threats that come in that interacts with the FBI see guardian system so at the end of the day we can do as much as we can from a prevention standpoint.”
But Professor Piquero says with more people being looked into, mistakes will be made about whether a person is really a threat.
“We have to make sure an individual liberty and individual security and their legal rights are not harmed in this situation. That goes for both the caller and the person being called about because the person being called about could be an innocent person following all the laws and rules but they may have someone upset at them for whatever reason.”
He says law enforcement agencies are already under-resourced, and he believes that will have to be addressed.
“We’re asking people to do more and we need to give them more resources to do that and that will show a very good commitment that we’re very serious about this problem and I think the state government is very serious about this problem.”
Next week, Governor Abbott says he will introduce legislative considerations.
In his order Thursday, the Governor said, “I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”
While Democrats have urged the Governor to call a special session, Republican leaders have established House and Senate Select Committees to develop legislation.