Two mass shootings occurred in Texas, exactly 4 weeks apart. Less than 300 miles separated the communities where they happened. Collectively, 29 innocent people died.

Now, Texas is freeing up law-enforcement and law-abiding citizens to act. 

Governor Greg Abbott issued 8 executive orders late Thursday night in the wake of these two tragedies.

“Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings,” Abbott said.

But it can’t come at the hands of the loss of rights, he said.

“One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders. But more must be done. I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”

The intent of these orders: to stop potential mass shooters before they act.

How does Abbott intend to do that? Here is the order enacted by the Republican governor.

WHEREAS, on August 3, 2019, a gunman killed twenty-two people in El Paso and injured dozens more in a despicable act of domestic terrorism; and

WHEREAS, the mother of the El Paso gunman had previously expressed concern to police about her son and the weapon with which he would later commit his cowardly attack; and

WHEREAS, on August 31, 2019, another gunman heinously killed seven people in Odessa and injured dozens more; and

WHEREAS, the Odessa gunman had called both the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to his shooting spree, had previously failed a background check, and was recently reported to law enforcement for confronting a neighbor while brandishing a semiautomatic rifle; and

WHEREAS, these tragic events come in the wake of other mass shootings in Texas, including one in which a gunman in Santa Fe opened fire in his high school with a shotgun and a revolver, another in which a gunman murdered worshippers at their church in Sutherland Springs, and another in which a gunman fatally ambushed police officers in Dallas; and

WHEREAS, mental instability, racial hatred, extremist ideology, a desire to sow domestic terror, and other factors have contributed to these horrific mass shootings in varying degrees; and

WHEREAS, legislative action has been and will be taken to safeguard against these dangers; and

WHEREAS, in addition to further legislative action, executive action can be taken immediately to help prevent more mass shootings and keep Texans safe; and

WHEREAS, revised and readily available standards for gathering and processing information about potential criminal or terrorist acts can lead to swifter action by law enforcement to prevent such acts, including mass shootings;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following:

Order No. 1      Within thirty days of this order, the Texas Department of Public Safety shall develop standardized intake questions that can be used by all Texas law-enforcement agencies to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.

Order No. 2      Within thirty days of this order, the Department of Public Safety shall develop clear guidance, based on the appropriate legal standard, for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.

Order No. 3      Within sixty days of this order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shall make training available to educate all law-enforcement officers regarding the standards that will be developed pursuant to Order No. 1 and Order No. 2.

Order No. 4      The Department of Public Safety shall create and conduct an initiative to raise public awareness and understanding of how Suspicious Activity Reports are used by law-enforcement agencies to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats, so that the general public and friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates will be more likely to report information about potential gunmen.

Order No. 5      The Department of Public Safety shall work with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on ways to better inform schools, students, staff, and families about the importance of Suspicious Activity Reports and how to initiate that process.

Order No. 6      The Department of Public Safety shall work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessment teams for each of its regions, and when appropriate shall coordinate with federal partners.

Order No. 7      The Department of Public Safety, as well as the Office of the Governor, shall use all available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in Texas for the purpose of better collecting and responding to Suspicious Activity Reports, and better monitoring and analyzing social media and other online forums, for potential threats. 

Order No. 8      Beginning January 1, 2020, all future grant awards from the Office of the Governor to counties shall require a commitment that the county will report at least 90 percent of convictions within seven business days to the Criminal Justice Information System at the Department of Public Safety.  By January 1, 2021, such reporting must take place within five business days.

This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.

Given under my hand this the 5th day of September 2019. 

GREG ABBOTT
Governor

 These are not the first steps that Texas lawmakers are taking. A new law took effect the day after the most recent shooting. That law does the following:

  • Allows licensed handgun owners to carry weapons in places of worship, including churches and synagogues.
  • Bans landlords and homeowners from prohibiting tenants to own, carry, store and transport guns on their property.
  • Prevents school districts from prohibiting licensed gun owners, to include school employees, from storing guns and ammunition in school parking lots as long as it is not in plain view.
  • Allows foster homes to store firearms.
  • Allows disaster shelters to take in evacuees who have guns.
  • Allows schools to have more armed marshals on campus.
  • Defends licensed gun owners who unknowingly enter designated gun-free zones as long as they leave after being made aware of the policy.
  • Prevents citizens for being charged for carrying a handgun without a license while evacuating from or returning to a declared disaster zone.

Texas is not the only state that allows for unlicensed carry during a disaster. As Florida was bracing for the potential impact of Hurricane Dorian, we were reminded of a bill signed into law in response to issues arising in the aftermath of Katrina in 2005. The law allows for residents to carry without a permit during mandatory evacuations.

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The bill allows for a 48-hour window of permit-less carry. The bill, SB 290, which the Florida House approved by a 86-26 vote back in April of 2015, was drafted as a response to Hurricane Katrina when many gun owners faced charges after they took their firearms with them when fleeing their homes.

We called the Florida Department of Agriculture Licensing Division to confirm when the 48-hour window opens and closes, and if it is in fact a 48-hour window, as the bills verbiage does not specify an hour limit.

While we were able to speak to several people that confirmed that the law does in fact allow permit-less carry during the mandatory evacuation, they were not able to confirm the timeframe.

We were eventually patched through to the Office of Communications, where we were told that ewe could not leave a voice mail and we would need to email for any questions to be answered. It did not leave an email address.

Florida does recognize your vehicle as part of the “Castle Doctrine,” allowing you to carry in your vehicle without a permit, but it does not allow it to be on your person without a permit.

LET continued to reach out to law enforcement agencies around the state to gain an understanding of the 48-hour timeframe, but we were unable to speak to anyone that could confirm that there is a window of legal carry without a permit or when that window opens and closes

The section of the law that covers permit-less carry is listed below in its entirety.

A bill to be entitled:                     

An act relating to carrying a concealed weapon or a concealed firearm; amending s. 790.01, F.S.; providing an exemption from criminal penalties for carrying a concealed weapon or a concealed firearm when evacuating pursuant to a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of emergency; providing an effective date.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. Section 790.01, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:

790.01 Unlicensed carrying of concealed weapons or concealed firearms.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (3), a person who is not licensed under s. 790.06 and who carries a concealed weapon or electric weapon or device on or about his or her person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

             (2) Except as provided in subsection (3), a person who is not licensed under s. 790.06 and who  carries a concealed firearm on or about his or her person commits a felony of the third degree,  punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

             (3) This section does not apply to:  

(a) A person who carries a concealed weapon, or a person who may lawfully possess a firearm and who carries a concealed firearm, on or about his or her person while in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252 or declared by a local authority pursuant to chapter 870.

                            (b) A person who carries for purposes of lawful self-defense, in a concealed manner:

  1. A self-defense chemical spray.
  2. A nonlethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes.

              (4)   This section does not preclude any prosecution for the use of an electric weapon or device,  a dart-firing stun gun, or a self-defense chemical spray during the commission of any criminal offense under s. 790.07, s. 790.10, s. 790.23, or s. 790.235, or for any other criminal offense.

Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.

It’s nice to see relaxed gun laws in an age where states are ramping them up. Those increasing laws are becoming more and more controversial.

 

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