AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas gun control advocates were invited to join a roundtable discussion in Gov. Greg Abbott’s office Wednesday to discuss mental health and gun control.
This is the first time in years that groups advocating for stricter gun laws have had such access to the upper levels of state government.
It’s not often you get Ed Scruggs from Texas Gun Sense and Alice Tripp from the Texas State Rifle Association in the same room. Let alone, next to Gov. Abbott at the same table.
“We focused on trying to build bridges on sides that might not always see eye to eye,” said Abbott.
What’s new Wednesday is the governor said he backed some measures gun control advocates have pushed for: a strong public awareness campaign on safe storage and requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns within two days. Right now someone must report a stolen or lost gun within 30 days, according to Abbott.
“It was really a relief. This conversation is a long time in coming. We needed it,” said Scruggs. “There was an acknowledgment around the table that, yeah this is an issue, and we should do everything we can to try and alleviate it.”
Scruggs says this is the first time they’ve had a seat at the table for a discussion like this and believes action will come.
But what’s still up for discussion is a red flag law that would take guns out of the hands of people with a mental health crisis.
“For a red flag order for mental health, you have to make sure there’s a psychological assessment,” said Alice Tripp from the Texas State Rifle Association, the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association. “It can’t be based on an allegation. Something must have had to occurred.”
Tripp says details will need to be worked out before they give their support.
Mental health was also a big topic Wednesday at the Capitol in response to the shooting. Gov. Abbott wants to look into more screening programs in schools, encouraging students to report mental illness, trauma and grief programs, and adding counselors.
Georgetown Sen. Charles Schwertner will be shepherding some of these bills through the legislature next year, especially when it comes to mental health.
“Identification, triage, and treatment, of students with a potential crisis of violence or crisis of mental health that might lead them to commit violent acts in the future. We have a lot of work to do there and I look forward to doing that this next session,” said Sen. Schwertner.
The 3-day roundtable discussions were spurred on by a gunman entering Santa Fe High School, shooting and killing 10 students and teachers, and wounding 13 others.
After the discussions, the Governor’s Office will present recommendations for state policy next week.
The majority of the meetings are closed to the press and the public.