By: Robert Davis
Following the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Texans were left wondering how their local government would respond.
In early September, they got their answer. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed eight executive orders to help bolster the training, tools, and resources law enforcement and the public need to provide and respond to Suspicious Activity Reports.
“Abbott's executive orders are essentially a form of ‘Red Flag lite,’ encouraging Texans to report fellow Texans over so-called suspicious behavior," Chris McNutt, Executive Director for Texas Gun Rights told Gunpowder Magazine. “This, of course, can simply be putting a pro-gun or ‘don’t tread on me’ sticker on your car, which triggers the far Left-wing extremists Abbott is trying to placate with these orders.”
Suspicious Activity Reports
Texas law enforcement agencies host Suspicious Activity Reports on a network called iWatchTexas, which allows the public to report, anonymously or knowingly, any criminal, terroristic, or school-safety activity they deem to be threatening. The information contained therein can help the collective agencies obtain search warrants and perform other duties to reduce crime.
The program was proven to be ineffective, however, in the fallout of the Odessa shooting in late August. According to multiple reports, the gunman had called law enforcement several times and told them he felt mentally unstable. Law enforcement failed to make any wellness checks with the individual prior to the shooting.
Still, Gov. Abbott focused his executive orders on bolstering the Suspicious Activity Report program.
“Put another way, 93 percent of those denied by NICS (The National Instant Criminal Background Check System) are law-abiding citizens wrongly denied because they have the same name or a similar name to a felon,” McNutt said. “But then the burden is on the citizens to prove their innocence instead of the Government, temporarily stripping law-abiding citizens of their gun rights. Adding more names to the already broken system will only make it worse.”
Under Abbott’s orders…
Order No. 1 directs the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop questions that can be used by all agencies to determine whether a called has information that should be reported on the Suspicious Activity Network.
Orders No. 2 and 3 direct DPS and the Texas Commission for Law Enforcement to clarify the legal standards to utilizing Suspicious Activity Reports and subsequently train police officers on the standards.
Orders No. 4 and 5 allow DPS to create a wide-spread public information campaign to raise public awareness about Suspicious Activity Reports and how to utilize them, while asking state educational institutions to develop ways of making the message reach the ears of students.
Orders No. 6, 7, and 8 require the aforementioned agencies to work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessments, and set reporting standards that begin in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Texas Safety Commission
Gun rights advocates in Texas are also wary of Abbott’s Texas Safety Commission, a 13-member group tasked with studying mass violence in the state, but whose ranks do not include a single pro-gun voice.
A list of members include: Ed Scruggs of Texas Gun Sense, a group that lobbies for strict gun control; Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R- Angleton), who helped kill constitutional carry legislation in 2019; and the author of the state’s failed red flag legislation, Democratic Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso).
“This group promotes the failed ideology that the solution to mass violence is a fear of guns,” Texas Director for Gun Owners of America, Rachel Malone, told Gunpowder Magazine. “We all know that guns save lives. This is just an attempt to further stigmatize guns and disarm potential victims. What more could a criminal ask for?”
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips and comments at RobertDavis0414 (at) gmail dot com.