Should Texas concentrate on keeping guns out of schools? Or should we arm teachers with pistols?
Guns, schools and students were the front-burner topic for the past week or so, in the wake of the horrific murder May 18 of 10 people, and wounding of 13 more, by a 17-year-old student at Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston.
Gov. Greg Abbott held three round-table meetings in the capitol on May with people from all sides of the school shootings: students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, gun owners, gun control advocates, and so on.
Following those meetings, Abbott and his staff developed a 40-point list of goals for changes in how to prevent or minimize the impact of such attacks.
Among them were things like more law enforcement personnel at schools, arming and training teachers and other employees, mental health evaluations to identify students who are threats, and more fulltime school counselors.
But Abbott did not call for some of the gun control aspects that others thought necessary.
Gov. Abbott said, in releasing his recommendations, that "I doubt there has been a Texas governor with a more pro-gun record than myself."
His recommendations promoted the safe storage of weapons, and requiring that lost or stolen guns be reported with 10 days.
Austin American-Statesman legal writer Chuck Lindell wrote a comparison of how Florida's officials responded to the Parkland school shooting there in February, and the Texas reaction. It showed Florida much more proactive in working to control guns.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, led the Republican legislature to endorse the first limits on gun rights in more than two decades.
They included raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, banning bump stocks and other devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons, and setting a three-day waiting period to buy a shotgun or rifle.
In contrast to Florida's response, "Clamping down on gun rights is definitely off the table in Texas," Lindell observed.
Gov. Scott said Florida's rapid response three weeks after the massacre there "should serve as an example to the entire country that government can and must move fast."
One difference for Florida is that its legislature was in session. The Texas Legislature is not, and is not scheduled to meet again until its regular biennial session convenes in early January.
To meet sooner than that can only happen if the governor calls a special session. And he can then dictate the subject matter for the session.
Some Democrats have called for Abbott to immediately call a special session. But others, including Rep. Eric Johnson, a Dallas Democrat and candidate for speaker of the Texas House, said on May 22 -- four days after the shooting – that while the school gun violence situation certainly merits a special session, it needs a mapped-out plan.
“What we do not need is a 30-day, million dollar special session that amounts to a taxpayer subsidized political commercial for legislators headed into general election season," Johnson said in a statement.
That seemed to be Abbott's attitude, too.
"A special session is not a debating society. A special session if for passing laws," Abbott said Wednesday. "If there is some consensus on laws that can be passed, I'm open to calling one."
Both House Speaker Joe Straus and the Senate's presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have followed Abbott's request to have legislative committees begin to consider some of the recommendations for potential legislation.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who won the runoff to be the Democratic nominee against Abbott in November, applauded Abbott's call for things like more attention to students' mental health, and more fulltime school counselors.
But she was critical of the absence of significant recommendations on gun control.
"I spent over 40 years in law enforcement and have carried a gun most of my life," Valdez said, in an opinion column Friday (June 1) in The Houston Chronicle.
"Texans grow up hunting and fishing, and our state has a proud tradition of military service. Responsible gun ownership is as Texan as barbacoa (barbeque) and Big Red," Valdez said.
But she said a recent poll showed most Texans agree with her that implementing, rather than just studying, "Red Flag" laws is needed.
They would let law enforcement and families "flag someone who may pose an immediate danger to themselves or others," and allow limiting their access to firearms.
"Gov. Abbott’s band-aids force us to believe that this violence is inevitable," Valdez said. "I don’t accept that and no parent should either."