In the wake of the Friday shooting at Santa Fe High School that left ten dead and another ten wounded, Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will initiate a series of roundtable discussions “with all stakeholders” on how to prevent such violence in the future. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas,” Abbott said. Firearm restrictions did not appear to be on that table.
“We come together today as we deal with one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools, “Abbott said. “It’s impossible to describe the magnitude of the evil of someone who would attack innocent children in a school a place of learning where parents should be able to send their children without fear for their child’s safety.”
Abbott said he wanted to have legislators, educators, students, parents, and Second Amendment firearms rights advocates on his roundtable, as well as possibly some survivors of the Sutherland Springs massacre. The National Rifle Association recently honored Sutherland Springs resident Stephen Willeford for using his own AR-15 rifle to stop the shooter. Willeford opposes gun control.
As politicians have in other mass shootings, the governor emphasized limiting access to firearms by individuals with mental health problems rather than age limits on purchasing firearms or increasing penalties on unsafe firearm storage. Abbott talked about looking at a Lubbock ISD program that is used to identify mentally unstable students. But the governor also noted that unlike the mass shootings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs or the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, there were no “red flags” to warn authorities that a Santa Fe student was about to commit mass murder. All there was, Abbott said, was a Facebook photo of a T-shirt that had “Born to Kill” printed on it.
The phrase “Born to Kill” has been used as the title of several motion pictures, including a 2017 British mini-series that is described as a “four-part psychological drama about a model teenager with hidden psychological issues.” The phrase also appears on the helmet of a Marine who is dehumanized by the war in Vietnam as a character in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic movie Full Metal Jacket.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick appeared at the same Santa Fe news conference as Abbott and said Texas needs to “harden” more than 8,000 schools in Texas—that there are too many entrances and exits. Patrick said the Santa Fe shooter, who was a student at the school, entered the building wearing a long coat despite the heat, and beneath it he carried a shotgun. “There aren’t enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit,” Patrick said. “But if we can protect a large office building or a courthouse or any major facility maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and the exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at the people who come in one or two entrances.”
One thing that set the Santa Fe shooting apart from some of the other recent shootings is that it did not involve an AR-15 tactical rifle. Abbott said the youth—identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis—used a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver that belonged to his father. Abbott said authorities did not know whether the father even knew that his son had the firearms. Most shotguns will hold a maximum of five rounds, and most .38 caliber revolvers are limited to six rounds. The AR-15 tactical weapons have been devastating in mass shootings because of their rapid semi-automatic fire and the ability of the shooter to quickly reload them.
Because Pagourtzis obtained the firearms from his father, concerns like the age of firearm purchasers is not an issue. The Parkland shooter was able to buy his rifle at the age of eighteen. Pagourtzis is seventeen. Patrick said the Santa Fe shooting is proof that parents need to secure their firearms: “If you’re a parent and you own guns, lock your guns safely away so your children should not be able or anyone else to get your legally owned guns.”
Texas law establishes a Class C misdemeanor for an adult to allow a child under the age of seventeen to have access to a firearm without adult supervision. The penalty goes up to a Class A misdemeanor of the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person. This law likely would not apply to Pagourtzis’s father because of his son’s age.