Gov. Greg Abbott says Texans 'need to wait' for legislative changes after Uvalde

ByTed Oberg and Sarah Rafique via KTRK logo
Friday, July 15, 2022
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Gov. Greg Abbott responds to ABC13's project looking at how Florida was able to pass bipartisan gun laws 23 days after a school shooting in 2018.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than 50 days after a school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde left 19 students and two teachers dead, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wouldn't commit to what or when any changes to Texas laws will be passed and signed to improve school safety.

Abbott has yet to call a special session bringing lawmakers back to the Capitol to work toward change, but said he is "100 percent" certain laws will be passed on the topic.

"We'll just need to wait and see how quickly an agreement can be reached on those programs and exactly what those programs are, however, the status quo is unacceptable and will not be allowed," Abbot told ABC13's Daniela Hurtado.

It's been seven weeks since the Robb Elementary School shooting and although Abbott has supported committees to investigate the shooting and "examine strategies to prevent acts of violence, including measures to enhance firearm safety in Texas," he hasn't called lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session.

This week, our 13 Investigates' "23 Days" project explored how Florida passed sweeping bipartisan gun control laws after just 23 days after a 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Florida, which like Texas is controlled by Republicans, passed laws in 2018 to raise the age to buy all guns from 18 to 21, instituted a three-day waiting period, created a Red Flag Law which has been used more than 8,000 times and spent hundreds of millions on school safety and mental health.

'23 DAYS' DOCUMENTARY: 13 Investigates how Texas and Florida responded differently after school shootings

When Hurtado asked Abbott about the 13 Investigates' project, he said, "I requested the Texas House and Senate to begin working on proposed legislation on a multitude of different topics. They've been having hearings, they've been making progress and I expect that progress to continue and once they work on those, some of those will lead to very meaningful results and so we hope to achieve some results."

Abbott also said after Santa Fe, he held his own hearings to prepare a booklet of his findings, but decided not to do that after Uvalde because "that just slows down the process."

"The people who have to reach agreement in shaping the laws are the legislatures and that's why I decided to ask them to go ahead and begin the process of evaluating what happened," Abbott said.

Still, only the governor in Texas has the power to call a special session to bring all lawmakers back to the state capitol and start considering changes to Texas law. That hasn't happened despite calls for a special session from the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, the Uvalde County Commissioners and others.

The Florida Republicans and Democrats who worked together to pass bipartisan legislation within 23 days of the 2018 Parkland mass shooting tell us they believe the laws they passed have saved lives.

Then-Republican Florida State Senator Bill Galvano said in Florida, they didn't need any studies or committees to tell them what went wrong. He said the more time that passes without actual change, unfortunately, the more likely there is to be another tragic event.

"It wasn't a matter of having to study to find out that something went wrong. We picked up and saw the shortcomings," Galvano said. "It was not very long after ... the actual tragedy that I sat down in my kitchen and outlined what became the skeleton for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri admits his views on how states should approach school safety changed after Parkland.

"In many respects, committees are cop outs. Committees are the easy way. A lot of what it comes down to is who they empanel and who they task with it," Gualtieri said. "Are you going to do the hard thing or are you just going to go in and do an overview and produce a report? ... Or are you going to say, 'Hey, look, we're going to be thorough. We're going to be fair. We're going to be objective, but we're also going to make the hard calls on this and if you're not willing to do that with this, then don't waste your time."

Now, after seeing how Florida's gun laws have made his community safer, his advice to Texans is to "step up and change the culture."

"You need to realize that it's going to happen again," Gualtieri said. "Question is when, and you better hope the 'where' answer to that question isn't in your area of responsibility.

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