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A special Texas Senate committee that met in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting made a series of policy recommendations Wednesday regarding school and gun safety, mental health, social media and police training.
In an 88-page report, the Task Force to Protect All Texans acknowledged that “more must be done to ensure the safety of Texas school children” following the May massacre, which killed 19 students and two teachers. The report was based in part on two days of testimony from police, education and mental health professionals, and gun safety advocates in June.
Regarding school safety, the committee proposed creating review teams to conduct on-site vulnerability assessments of school sites and share the results with school leaders. He also suggested additional funding for grants to improve security at individual campuses based on need.
He called for adding additional training centers for the school commissioner program, where teachers and staff can be certified to carry weapons on campus. Since the show debuted in 2013, only 84 of the state’s more than 1,200 districts have joined.
For mental health, the committee recommended expanding access to the state’s telemedicine system for mental health to all school districts within a “reasonable time frame.” He also implored lawmakers to find ways to increase the number of mental health professionals to support this expansion, such as allowing professionals to volunteer; offer loan repayment benefits for professionals, especially in rural areas; offer scholarships and paid internships; and streamline licensing requirements.
The committee also recommended the creation of a statewide database of inpatient community beds, including those for pediatric patients, noting that local governments and police “incur significant costs to transport patients who need immediate hospitalization.”
On social media, the committee said the Legislature should encourage the Department of Public Safety and local districts to increase use of iWatch Texas, the state’s suspicious activity reporting network. This system is intended to provide a single, statewide hub for law enforcement to investigate threats.
In terms of police training, the committee recommended adding Advanced Rapid Response Law Enforcement Training to the basic course for state officers. He suggested that the Texas Law Enforcement Commission drop its own requirement for active shooter training to avoid redundancy that is “unnecessary and a waste of time and resources.” School districts should be required to share their emergency operations plans with local law enforcement, the committee said, and police should be able to digitally access the mental health records of people they encounter, a resource which has proven valuable to jailers when evaluating prisoners.
The committee made only one gun-related recommendation: make the purchase of a gun for someone who is prohibited from owning one a statewide felony. Clandestine firearms purchases are illegal under federal law, though the committee expressed concern that US prosecutors rarely prosecute offenders.
Governor Greg Abbott in 2019 he recommended banning counterfeit purchases under state law in a report his office produced after the El Paso Walmart mass shooting. But the Legislature did not approve it.
Such a law would not have prevented the Uvalde shooter from buying guns. He legally purchased two semi-automatic rifles in the days before the shooting.
The committee acknowledged that some lawmakers have proposed raising the age to purchase certain assault weapons from 18 to 21, arguing that most attacks on schools have been carried out by teenagers. The report noted, however, a “strong lack of consensus” among committee members on the idea. Abbott has also said that he opposes raising the purchase age for certain rifles to 21.
The legislative session begins on January 10.