By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Two groups at opposite ends of the gun debate will meet Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday as part of a second round of talks on preventing gun violence on campus, a response to last week’s fatal shooting of 10 people in a Houston-area high school.
Abbott invited representatives from the Texas State Rifle Association, which is affiliated with the National Rifle Association, and Texas Gun Sense, which favors gun control, to join him in Austin, the state capital.
A group of experts are also expected to take part in the second of three round tables that the governor said would focus on mental health issues and the causes of gun violence.
Abbott, a Republican and staunch gun rights supporter, has said that any changes to state laws would “protect Second Amendment rights” to bear arms as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The Republican-controlled legislature is out of session until January 2019, making it nearly impossible for the state to implement and fund any major changes that come out of this week’s talks.
Abbott has given no indication that he would call for a special session to implement new policies despite calls from Texas Democrats who see the move as essential for quickly improving safety.
“We need to have solutions in place before our kids come back to school in the fall. We are all sending our kids to school with prayers and that is all that we have right now,” State Democratic Representative Gina Hinojosa, said in an interview.
Ed Scruggs, board vice chair of Texas Gun Sense, a group looking to tighten gun laws, will be at the meeting and said one of the main points he will try to impress on the panel is the need to implement a “red flag” law that would allow a court to deny access to firearms to people determined to be a threat to themselves or others.
Officials from the Texas State Rifle Association were not immediately available for comment.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been accused of killing eight students and two teachers during a rampage at Santa Fe High School on Friday – the latest in a string of deadly school shooting in the United States this year.
At the first meeting on Tuesday, participants proposed expanding school safety training programs, bolstering threat assessment systems and expanding a pilot program designed to screen for students who might be a threat to themselves or others. Abbott said he wanted those ideas enacted quickly.
Gun rights proponents say the Second Amendment prohibits regulations on gun ownership and that enforcement of existing laws should be sufficient to stop violent incidents like the one in Santa Fe.
Gun control groups point to the regular toll of shootings across the United States as evidence that more needs to be done to rein in the proliferation of weapons.
In contrast to Florida, where the killing of 17 teens and educators in February sparked a youth-led movement calling for new restrictions on gun ownership, the Texas tragedy saw elected officials and survivors alike voicing support for gun rights.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Lisa Shumaker)