Abbott and other Texas Republicans have mostly ignored calls for increased gun restrictions since the Uvalde shooting, instead focusing on mental health funding and school safety.
In late June, Abbott and state leaders announced they would dedicate $100 million in state funds to boost school safety and mental health services through August 2023. Most of the funds went toward bullet-resistant shields for school police officers and for school districts to buy silent panic alert technology to alert police of an intruder.
Cornyn negotiated a federal bill signed into law last June with modest gun control measures that addressed a “boyfriend loophole,” which previously exempted some dating partners from a federal ban on firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence. The bill also included money states could use to fund gun safety programs including "red flag laws," which allow for the temporary confiscation of guns from people found by a judge to be dangerous. Texas has not moved to impose such a law.
Texas lawmakers also appear unlikely to raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 from 18 to 21 after a bill to do so missed key legislative deadlines. But gun safety advocates say they still see incremental progress through two gun-related bills passed by both chambers of the Legislature.
Senate Bill 728 requires courts to report involuntary mental health hospitalizations of juveniles 16 and older for inclusion in the federal background check system to purchase firearms. The bill, sent to the governor’s desk, addresses a loophole exposed by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica following the shooting in Uvalde.
House Bill 2454 would restrict a person from buying a gun for another person not allowed to have one. It has passed both chambers, but the House must accept or negotiate amendments made to the bill by the Senate before the legislative session ends May 29.
Lawmakers have also advanced legislation to fund campus security upgrades, add requirements such as silent panic buttons in classrooms and create a new safety and security department within the Texas Education Agency. The department would have the authority to compel school districts to establish active-shooter protocols — something about half of the state’s school districts failed to have, according to an audit in 2020.
Texas lawmakers have also proposed more funding for school mental health services as part of school safety legislation. However, school officials worry that money will instead be used up by school security upgrades and want a dedicated funding stream for mental health assistance. Lawmakers would have to act quickly to do so before the legislative session ends, though Abbott has warned of a special session if certain Republican priorities aren’t passed.
Abbott also appointed a chief of school safety and security, a new position he created in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, and ordered “random intruder audits” of schools to begin last fall to detect weak points in campus safety. The inspections were to be carried out by the Texas School Safety Center, a research center at Texas State University long tasked with collecting and distributing school safety information.