Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday he’s not aware of any “red flags” in the suspected El Paso gunman’s past and made no mention of taking major gun-control measures in Texas, where three mass shootings since 2017 have killed more than 50 people.
Abbott, a Republican, said racism needs to be confronted and a crackdown initiated on internet sites used by violent extremists after the weekend attack that left 22 people dead in the mostly Latino border city.
“The people of Texas have been victimized by several mass shootings. It must be stopped,” said Abbott, who met with legislators Wednesday in El Paso and said the state will act swiftly to address his calls for action.
The lawmakers in the meeting with him, all Democrats from El Paso, have unsuccessfully pushed for tighter firearms restrictions in the state Legislature. They gathered for a discussion hours before Abbott welcomed President Donald Trump to El Paso amid protests blaming Trump for inflaming racial and political tensions.
Last year, 10 people were killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston. And in 2017, a shooting at a church in rural Sutherland Springs left more than two dozen worshippers dead.
In the El Paso shooting, authorities believe the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, posted a racist screed online before opening fire at a Walmart. Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, another gunman killed nine people in an entertainment district.
Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, a Republican, bucked his party Tuesday in response to the Dayton attack and called for expanded gun laws that include background checks for nearly all gun sales and allowing courts to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats.
But Abbott did not give specifics about what changes he’ll push for following Texas’ latest mass shooting. He said firearms must be kept away from “deranged killers” but added that “constitutional rights are not going to be violated.”
Following the Santa Fe High School shooting, Abbott signaled support for so-called red flag laws, which restrict gun access for people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. But he retreated amid pushback from gun-rights supporters in Texas, which has more than 1.3 million handgun license holders and allows handguns and rifles like the one used Saturday in the El Paso shooting to be openly carried in public.
“According to the information I have to date, there were no red flags about this particular shooter,” Abbott said of the El Paso suspect. “We want to identify ways that we would be able to root out this shooter. Could be from hate-online sites or otherwise. But we’re going to be looking into everything.”
Abbott said the state was immediately providing El Paso with $5 million for mental health and grief services. He said he will also hold roundtables around Texas later this month to discuss measures in response to the attack, similar to what his office did after the high school shooting.
Weber reported from Austin, Texas.