Abbott issues gun violence executive orders

The eight executive orders from Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday mostly involve DPS developing ways to better recognize and respond to threats.

"We like that fact that it is a package,” said state Rep. James White (R-Hillister).

The Republican from East Texas who serves on House committees dealing with corrections and the judiciary called Abbott's orders a good first step.

"The governor has started a process here, where no stone is unturned, we are looking at everything and anything we can do right now we want to implement them,” said White.

Along with recognizing and reporting threats, Abbott's orders includes creating regional threat assessment teams as well as awarding grant money to help local courts post criminal convictions into a computer database within 7 business days. That could help address a gap in background checks. Everything is essentially an administrative fix, according to political analyst Brian Smith. 

"The problem with Executive Orders is the governor doesn't sit on the legislative purse strings, that’s the legislature that sets up the budgeting, so he can only move a little money around, here and there, make proclamations, try to improve efficiencies, but the kind of things people are looking for in terms of gun control involve legislation, backed up by money, backed up by enforcement. And the Governor really can’t do that,” said Smith.

Abbott is expected to release a packet of legislative gun proposals next week, ideas that came out of his recent domestic terrorism task force meetings. He didn't mention anything Thursday about calling a special session, but the governor did say more needs to be done.

"[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,” stated Abbott.

The governor is having to walk a fine line whether to call a special session. The buzz word from the governor's office is consensus.

The last special session Abbott called took place in 2017. The main purpose then was to keep several agencies up and running. If there is to be a special session to address gun violence, some had this advice.

"It will be important to know where he stands on that issue right now, where the legislative people stand on it, before they would do that,” said Tim Strickland, who was visiting Austin from Canton. 

Strickland went on to agree that not having a bill locked down could make a special session a waste of town.

Wednesday state Democrats urge the governor to call an open-ended special session. While some promised unity, others showed why reaching consensus may be difficult.

"If you have accepted contribution form dark money groups like the NRA, then you have blood on your hands,” said state Rep James Talarico (D-Round Rock) during the Wednesday gathering at the Capitol..

Smith says the governor runs a risk of giving Democrats a big political soap box by not having a plan or enough support to pass a bipartisan bill.

"So that’s why Abbott, calling a special session, is going to make sure he's go the votes going in, and he makes sure he holds all the cards, and plays them right,” said Smith.

Another wild card in the special session question is House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He is currently under investigation for allegedly offering a right wing group access to the House floor, if that group promised to target certain House members who are up for re-election. Some of those on the list reportedly are Republicans.

A special session could lead to an ugly scene with members and the GOP leadership.