‘Very weak’: Texas teachers union blasts Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for special legislative committee

Texas State Teachers Association responds to Abbott’s committee call: ‘Committees and other groups have studied school safety before’

Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference about the mass shooting at Uvalde High School on May 27, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Abbott held a press conference to give an update on the resources the state will be providing to everyone affected by Tuesday's mass shooting where 19 children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School. Abbott expressed his anger about being misled about law enforcement's response to the shooting. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) (Michael M Santiago/GettyImages, 2022 Getty Images)

The Texas State Teachers Association called Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for a special legislative committee, not a special session, in response to the Uvalde shooting “very weak.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, the TSTA said Abbott and lawmakers need to act on school safety such as gun reform, not hold additional meetings that “refuse to address the real issue.”

The statement was released hours after Abbott sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan to convene a special legislative committee.

Abbott said he wants committees to review laws, resources for schools and recommendations for the state and federal levels, “so that meaningful action can be made” to prevent more school shootings.

He stopped short of calling a special session, though, which is the only way for laws to be added, removed or changed outside a legislative session, which meets once every two years.

Abbott said he wants legislative committees to specifically develop recommendations on school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.

He said the process should start “immediately.”

TSTA said “the victims’ families and all Texans deserve better than” the committee meetings.

“Committees and other groups have studied school safety before, including after the Santa Fe High School shootings in 2018 and the El Paso Walmart shootings in 2019, and schools obviously aren’t safe from mass shooters,” the statement read in part. “This is because the governor and legislators refuse to address the real issue and enact reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

“The governor didn’t even put this issue on the agenda for the new committees.”

The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus urged the governor to call a special session in the days after the Uvalde tragedy, where an 18-year-old man used a legally purchased AR-style rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to kill 19 students and two of their teachers. He had another rifle in a truck.

He barricaded himself in their fourth-grade classroom for more than an hour before he was killed by a Border Patrol tactical team.

The 13 Senate Democrats offered possible solutions to take up in the special session, like increasing the minimum legal age to buy a rifle in Texas. Right now, in Texas, 18-year-olds can purchase rifles but not handguns (21 is the minimum age for pistol purchases).

They also recommended requiring universal background checks and implementing “red flag” laws.

In Friday’s news conference, Abbott said “all options are on the table” when it comes to calling a special session. At the same time, though, he told the NRA in recorded comments that gun laws don’t stop mass shooters.

He did not specify if a special session would be formed, but pledged that “laws will come out of the crime.”

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.