AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Victims and survivors of Texas mass shootings are expected to take part in a final round of talks on Thursday with Governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking ways to stop gun massacres after a shooter killed 10 people in a Houston-area high school.
Students and parents from Santa Fe High School, where a gunman killed eight students and two teachers last Friday, will be joined by several people from Sutherland Springs, where 26 churchgoers were killed in a mass shooting in November, Abbott’s office said in a statement.
Abbott, a Republican, held roundtable discussions in Austin, the state capital, on Tuesday with educators and law enforcement officials and then again on Wednesday with the Texas State Rifle Association, affiliated with the National Rifle Association, and Texas Gun Sense, which favors tighter gun laws, along with mental health experts.
“We focused on trying to build bridges between sides that may not always see eye to eye, working collaboratively on one goal, and that is making sure that we are going to keep our students, our schools and our communities safer,” Abbott said after the two-hour closed-door meeting on Wednesday.
Abbott said the panel on Wednesday discussed ways to address mental health issues at schools, safe storage measures for firearms at homes and the so-called red flag warning laws that are intended to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed by a judge to be danger to themselves or others.
Abbott, a staunch supporter of gun rights, said any changes to state laws would need to protect Second Amendment rights to bear arms as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The legislature is out of session until January 2019, making it nearly impossible for the state to implement and fund any major changes from the talks.
In contrast to Florida, where the killing of 17 teens and educators at a school in February sparked a youth-led movement calling for new restrictions on gun ownership, the Texas tragedy saw many elected officials and survivors alike voicing support for gun rights.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been charged with murder in the killing of eight students and two teachers during a rampage at Santa Fe High School on Friday – the latest in a string of deadly school shooting in the United States this year.
Editing by William Maclean