Governor Abbott holds the first of his touted 'round tables to discuss school safety' today at the Capitol in Austin, but many lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, say he should do more than just talk, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Texans should not have to wait for their state leaders to act on the gun crisis," said State Rep Chris Turner (D-Arlington). That's why he needs to call a special session, and only he has the power to do that."
State Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) and several other lawmakers of both parties have also weighed in, demanding that Abbott call a Special Session of the Legislature to deal with several issues involving guns and school safety.
Nelson says more than a dozen measures, several of which are among the proposals the governor will be discussing in the 'round tables,' were in fact introduced in the 2017 Legislature and did not pass, largely because of lack of support from the governor's office.
"Universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, making sure gun owners lock of their guns at home," Turner said. "There are a whole host of things that lawmakers can and should do."
Villalba agreed in a letter to Abbott released by his office.
"The Texas 2018-2019 school year will begin for most Texas students in August of this year, just three months away. If we believe for a moment that there is any chance whatsoever that our children may again be impacted by gun violence in our schools or in our communities, then we, the leaders of the Great State of Texas, have no choice but to immediately act," Villalba wrote. "Governor, I respectfully ask that you call a Special Session of the Texas Legislature to begin the process of formulating viable and effective solutions to reducing, and hopefully ending altogether, gun violence in our schools and in our communities."
One proposal that Clay Robison with the Texas State Teachers Association hopes does not pass, is increased arming of teachers. He says the proposal wouldn't work, and teachers do not want to tote guns into the classroom. He says there would also be storage issues, where should a gun be kept in the classroom.
Robison says there is also talk of hardening school buildings to prevent additional shootings, but that raises the big question of how to pay for the millions of dollars that would cost."The state of Texas already underfunds public education," he said, adding that the cost cannot be passed along to homeowners who are already stressed out by rising property taxes.
One idea that is gaining ground is the idea of reducing the number of entrances to schools, so metal detectors and other safety measures can be installed.
Kirk Kistner, Vice President of San Antonio based Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, which is one of the largest builders of school houses in the state, says multiple doors will always have to exist for fire evacuation purposes, but he says those doors do not have to be entrances.
"There really needs to be a two door vestibule that is bullet proof with a waiting area," he said. "This idea of one main entrance, and that's where everybody enters the building, you could have metal detectors at that location."
Kistner says there also has be a rethinking of the nineties concept of building school buildings with multiple separate buildings. That creates too many opportunities for bad actors, be they students or outsiders, to get inside.
"If you consolidate everything into one main building, instead of having detatched wings, or a detatched gymnasium or a detatched library," he said.
Kistner says school construction will have to take a look at other options as well, in the interest of safety, like school lockers.
"A lot schools aren't placing lockers in their buildings any more, because that does create places for people to hide things."
The average public school building in Texas is 45 years old, and Kistner expects retrofitting of school buildings to improve safety to be a major issue in the coming years.