First Texas Safety Commission meeting held at state capitol in the wake of El Paso shooting
AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Thursday, the Texas Safety Commission held it's first meeting at the Texas State Capitol. The task force was formed in response to the mass shooting that occurred in El Paso, earlier in the month.
“I think speaking for everybody here, it was a very productive discussion. We plowed a lot of ground, and we got off to what we considered to be a good start.” said Governor Greg Abbott (R - TX.)
The meeting brought together lawmakers, law enforcement, scholars, psychologists, and representatives from social media companies.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers told FOX 7 the meeting fostered positive discussions.
“There was a lot of consensuses. Much more than I expected walking into the room, so we're looking forward to the next steps.” said Rep. Art Fierro (D - El Paso.)
“Next steps,” appeared to be the focus of the meeting, which centered on future plans.
According to the governor's office, the goal of the commission is to “provide community healing, combat the rise of extremist groups and hateful ideologies, keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals, and combat domestic terrorism, including cyber security threats.” It will also “produce legislative solutions” for the state to prevent mass shootings and domestic terror attacks.”
Abbott said "one thing" the group talked about was "working more collaboratively between social media and law enforcement."
He said, “flagger programs” to report “red flags,” user and law enforcement training programs, social media responses to attacks, and digital literacy were all topics discussed with representatives from companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, said “free speech means there is some hateful, some disturbing things that are said over the internet. And, unless it’s a crime, we can’t monitor it. And, that’s why it’s important these companies work with us, so they can identify things that really are precursors to violence.”
The group also talked about the need for robust threat assessment teams -- that operate on a regional level. “Some police departments are very small and don’t have the resources to staff something like that. So, the idea was to find a way to make that broader.” said Matthew DeSarno, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Dallas Field Office.
There were discussions about current issues with emergency protective orders. “There are some open gaps in already existing laws and already existing emergency orders that we need to focus on filling.” Abbott said.
He cited an example. Although one may have an emergency protective order “placed” on them and may not legally be allowed to own a gun “there’s no mechanism in place to ensure that person does not have a gun.”
There were also talks about the need to better report stolen guns. “The fact of the matter is that there are many gun crimes that take place where the gun that is used is a stolen gun.” Abbott explained.
Abbott said the group also discussed issues with background checks. He said there is a need to close both “current gaps in pre-existing background check laws in the state” and “speed up the reporting.”
He cited the background of the Pease Park gunman as a recent example of a background check failure. “One stranger can sell a gun to another stranger right now. There is nothing in law that would prevent one stranger from selling a gun to a terrorist, and obviously that needs to be looked into.”
The second Texas Safety Commission meeting will take place on August 29, in El Paso.