Guns in schools

Patrick shoots down idea to protect schools


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he wants to protect students and educators from gun violence, but his first priority is keeping the firearms industry happy. Gov. Greg Abbott also is a major promoter of firearms, but in the days immediately following the shootings at Santa Fe High School, Abbott at least proposed that the Legislature consider enacting a red flag law to try to keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous people. Now, he apparently is retreating.

In the realm of “gun control,” a red flag law would be modest but potentially effective in isolated cases. Such a law would make it easier for judges to issue orders removing or blocking access to firearms for people who have been legally determined to be potentially dangerous to themselves or others, such as people with some mental issues or individuals involved in incidents of domestic violence.

Patrick instructed a Senate committee to hold a public hearing on the red flag proposal, but it apparently was only to give gun owners the opportunity to flock to the Capitol to remind senators what a bad idea they thought a red flag law was. Once the show was over, Patrick announced that he intended to kill the legislation next session. (He is assuming he will be reelected in November, and he will be if educators don’t get out in force and vote for Patrick’s opponent, Mike Collier, for lieutenant governor.)

“I have never supported these (red flag) policies, nor has the majority of the Texas Senate,” Patrick said.

Patrick also said Abbott was backing off his red flag proposal, and the governor, who seldom lets political courage dictate his performance, may be. Following complaints from conservatives and leaders in his own party, Abbott already had indicated, in a tweet, that his resolve – if he ever had any – to see the Legislature enact a red flag law was melting.

Patrick and Abbott would rather keep the firearms industry happy, as well as the thousands of Texas voters who believe that the Second Amendment allows no room for common sense or public safety. Remember, both have proposed arming more teachers, a dangerous idea that would allow the gun industry to sell even more guns but wouldn’t effectively reduce gun violence in schools.

After the Santa Fe shootings, Abbott and Patrick also proposed making school facilities more secure against armed intruders and improving mental health services for students, ideas that have merit but are very expensive. Neither has proposed a substantial source of funding to help budget-strapped school districts implement these ideas, and, given their history of shortchanging public education, they aren’t likely to.

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who tried but failed to get a red flag law enacted last year, reacted to Patrick’s opposition. “There are some very disturbed people who shouldn’t have guns, at least temporarily, and we believe we can devise a way to identify them fairly and constitutionally while protecting Second Amendment rights,” Moody said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick states opposition to “red flag” gun laws





Abbott has a school safety plan. Now what, governor?


Gov. Greg Abbott has a school safety plan. Now what? More specifically, how is he going to pay for it? Or maybe more to the point, who is going to pay for it?

So far, Abbott has identified about $110 million, including federal funds. But his proposals, if adopted and carried out to any meaningful degree, will cost billions, a very pricey proposition for a governor who has been tight-fisted about education spending.

Here are a few of the big ticket items:

# Improving the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to reduce security threats. Texas has more than 8,700 school campuses. Not all of them will be redesigned or “hardened,” as the security people say, but if the governor’s plan is carried out, many will be, and some may get metal detectors at several thousand dollars apiece. This item alone could easily cost many times the $110 million the governor has identified.

# Hiring more professionally trained school security guards, a worthwhile, but recurring expense that many school districts and local taxpayers may not be able to afford.

# Hiring more school counselors to improve school mental health services and identify students who may pose a danger to themselves and others. This idea also can save lives, but thousands of additional counselors are needed across Texas, and, like the security guards, they will have to be paid and receive benefits every year, year in and year out.

There are other costs, including training costs that would be associated with the governor’s proposed expansion of the school marshal program to arm more teachers and school employees, which TSTA opposes.

Twenty of the governor’s proposals, half of the 40 pieces of his plan, will require funding, according to an analysis by the Texas House Democratic Caucus. And so far the governor hasn’t identified a funding source for 13 of those 20.

Phillip Martin, the caucus’ executive director, also pointed out that most of the funding the governor has proposed, $62.1 million, comes from federal grants for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. Congress appropriated some of this money for school safety but also intended for some of the funding to pay for STEM education for girls, minority students and low-income kids.

Abbott needs to begin making plans now for the Legislature to raise substantial amounts of state funding to carry out his plan. School districts and local taxpayers alone simply cannot afford the cost associated with it, partly because the governor and his legislative allies have persisted for years in under-funding public education.

Part of the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s multi-billion-dollar savings account, can be used to help school districts improve the security of their facilities. The Rainy Day Fund is taxpayer money, and Abbott needs to quit hoarding it.

For the longer term, the governor needs to insist that the School Finance Commission come up with an improved, adequate school funding system, not only to improve school security but also to improve learning opportunities for all of Texas’ school kids. And if he is still in office in January, he needs to demand that the Legislature enact it.

Otherwise, the school safety plan will amount to little more than playing politics in an election year.





Abbott proposes unlocking guns on school campuses


Not only does Gov. Greg Abbott want to arm more teachers and other school employees, he also wants to unlock their guns during the school day. This is one provision of the governor’s proposal to expand the voluntary “school marshal” program that allows schools to designate a limited number of teachers and other employees to have firearms at school.

At last count, about 170 school districts, many in rural areas, participate.

Under current law, however, guns brought to school by teachers or other employees who have direct contact with students have to be kept locked up, unless there is a life-threatening emergency. If the Legislature goes along with Abbott’s new plan, the locks would be removed.

The governor apparently believes that if you are going to arm teachers or principals to confront armed intruders, it makes no sense to require those teachers or principals or whoever to waste precious minutes trying to unlock a drawer or a safe after mayhem already has erupted.

Abbott would rather take a chance with the very real dangers – accidental discharges, thefts, etc — that unlocked firearms in classrooms, gyms, cafeterias or elsewhere on school campuses would pose for students and school employees each and every school day.

But how many parents really want to send their children to a school where there may be a pistol – either loaded or with ammunition stored nearby — in an unlocked classroom drawer?

TSTA opposes arming more teachers or other school employees because, even with firearms training, most would be no match for a heavily armed intruder who has planned his attack, has the element of surprise, is probably suicidal and is determined to kill.

As TSTA President Noel Candelaria said this week in response to Abbott’s proposal, “Teachers are trained to teach and to nurture, not double up as security guards.”

In a recent national survey, 82 percent of educators told the National Education Association they will not take guns to school because they don’t believe that is the answer to gun violence.

TSTA supports the hiring of more professionally trained, fulltime security guards for school campuses and strengthening school facilities against intruders, which the governor also has proposed. TSTA also supports the governor’s call for increased mental health services and other steps to identify students at risk of hurting others. TSTA also believes the state should provide more funding to pay for all these proposals, an issue that the governor’s plan doesn’t fully address.

Abbott apparently is thin-skinned about TSTA’s opposition to arming teachers. In a tweet yesterday, he accused TSTA of not reading his plan before criticizing it. He said he doesn’t “mandate” arming teachers. We read his plan, and we know he doesn’t “mandate” more guns for teachers, but he certainly has proposed it. And it is a bad idea.




How will Second Amendment Abbott try to address gun violence in schools?


No doubt, Gov. Greg Abbott is as devastated as most Texans over the tragedy at Santa Fe High School, the senseless loss of 10 more people to gun violence. But what, if anything, will he do about it?

As he convened roundtables on the issue, Abbott suggested metal detectors for school buildings, speeding up background checks for gun purchases and trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who “pose immediate danger” to others.

But Abbott is a governor in a reelection year who counts passionate gun-rights advocates among his political base. He is a governor who, upon learning three years ago that Texas was second to California in new gun sales, tweeted: “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”

That tweet was featured this week by a pro-gun rights blogger, who sought to reassure his readers that they didn’t need to worry about Gov. Abbott flying off the Second Amendment rails and doing something rational. Something like putting additional restrictions on guns, which Gov. Rick Scott of Florida did when he signed a new gun law following the Parkland school shootings in Florida.

“In case you haven’t noticed, Texas isn’t Florida,” wrote Dan Zimmerman, managing editor of, a pro-gun rights blog. “Republicans control every branch of state government and Abbott’s been a frequent, dependable and vocal promoter of gun rights and the Second Amendment. He’s supported both open carry and campus carry in this state and signed both into law.”

Zimmerman predicted Abbott will not do what the Florida governor did following Parkland. Abbott, he said, will not sign a bill raising the minimum age to buy firearms, banning bump fire stocks – which enable guns to be fired more rapidly – and imposing a three-day waiting period on long gun purchases. (None of those steps would have had any effect on the Santa Fe shooter, but they could help curtail future violence.)

“You’ll probably sooner see the Governor (Abbott) propose a bill outlawing barbecued brisket and Lone Star Beer,” Zimmerman wrote.

He predicted: “Our guess is that the result of these meetings (Abbott’s roundtables on gun violence) will be a white paper and possible legislation aimed at making schools harder targets. Restricting outside access, use of metal detectors, adding more armed School Resource Officers and encouraging more districts to allow teachers, administrators and other employees to carry firearms, if they wish.”

That would fit Abbott’s political resume, but we will find out soon enough.