The Austin Chronicle

Abbott Appoints Domestic Terrorism Task Force in El Paso's Wake

Thoughts, prayers, committees

By Michael King, August 23, 2019, News

Pressed to take action on gun violence – including calls for a special session – in the wake of the Aug. 3 anti-immigrant terrorist massacre in El Paso that left 22 people dead and scores more injured, Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed a Domestic Terrorism Task Force to coordinate law enforcement responses, and a Texas Safety Commission to develop an "immediate action plan." The latter group (created Aug. 19) also includes some law enforcement (e.g., Texas Depart­ment of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, who serves on both groups), as well as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, state legislators (especially from El Paso), advocates like Ed Scruggs (of Texas Gun Sense), mental health professionals, and even representatives of Google and Twitter. According to Abbott's declaration, the commission is charged to develop "strategies to provide community healing, combat the rise of extremist groups and hateful ideologies, keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals, and combat domestic terrorism, including cybersecurity threats."

The Task Force, announced Aug. 14, will hold its first "roundtable" meeting with the governor on Aug. 30 and convene quarterly thereafter. The Safety Commis­sion first meets today in Austin (Thu., Aug. 22, Texas Capitol, 10:30am) and again in El Paso on Aug. 29; it "will bring together experts and community leaders," says Abbott, "to develop an action plan to combat threats of domestic terrorism, root out extremist ideologies, and address the link between mental health challenges and gun violence in our communities." Following the 2018 Santa Fe High School massacre, Abbott launched similar public efforts, which led to legislation this spring to strengthen school safety planning and procedures and mental health services – but not to new restrictions on guns.

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