Where is Gov. Abbott?

On July 17, the Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting of the Texas House of Representatives, chaired by Lubbock’s own State Rep. Dustin Burrows with committee members House Speaker Pro-Tempore Joe Moody and former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, released its preliminary report to the public. It is, without a shadow of doubt, chilling to the core. The 77-page account of what happened on that horrific day needs to be read by all Texans, including state leaders.

With schools in Lubbock and area counties starting in a few weeks, what results will lawmakers produce before students return? What safeguards can be put into place at the state level in such a short amount of time? In a televised interview on KAMC, Chairman Burrows said he wanted to “make sure they [students] have a safer school…and not have that false sense of security.” What exactly can be done by lawmakers before the middle of August?

Governor Abbott in Lubbock (photo credit: KAMC)

Unless Gov. Abbott calls the legislature into a special session, nothing will happen until the 88th Regular Session in January of 2023. This means the same policies that were in place at the end of last school year, which allowed the Uvalde terrorist to legally purchase those semi-automatic weapons and led to the horrific massacre, will still be in place for the start of this school year. How that is helpful to make schools safer is beyond puzzling.

It is an election year, sure. And perhaps Gov. Abbott ponders what he does will jeopardize his reelection, but in all honesty, the election of consequence in Texas — the Republican Primary — is over. Gov. Abbott demolished his opponents by capturing almost two-thirds of the vote. Is he fearful of losing support from his Republican base? Research suggests “if voters aren’t paying enough attention during the primary to know what happened during that stage of the election, it’s impossible for them to factor primary election results into their general election decision-making.” To put it another way, out of the large number of Texas voters who may participate in November, only a fraction of them will remember what happened in the March primary. With that in mind, what does Gov. Abbott have to lose?

What cannot be forgotten is that schools in Texas demand Gov. Abbott to call a special session. Fort Worth ISD School Board passed a resolution, as well as Uvalde CISD, to address gun violence. Mayors across Texas, mainly from the metroplexes, signed a letter requesting swift action on this issues. The state is waiting for Gov. Abbott’s leadership on this issue, but where has he been?

To be blunt, Gov. Abbott is either doing work behind the scenes to announce something in the future or he is trying to distract the public’s attention from recent polling and bad press. For instance, two weeks ago he convened a tele-town hall with former — and disgraced — House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He posted a picture of the event to his social media. Gov. Abbott also took to social media praising the accomplishments of Operation Lone Star and other border security issues and immigration. And why not discuss those issues? Gov. Abbott polls very well on them.

But what else is clear is that Gov. Abbott does not want to talk about the Uvalde massacre. This was evident in a recent interview with a Houston’s KHOU where the interviewer tried to get Gov. Abbott’s answer to the growing calls of a special session. The governor, however, sidestepped the question. And who can blame him for that? With polling in the governor’s race showing it tightening, a majority of Texans say the state is on the wrong track, and his overall approval ratings are below his disapproval ratings, why discuss issues that do not favor you? One of the first lessons in politics is to discuss what you want and Gov. Abbott will stick to his classic hits of immigration and border security.

Governor Abbott at Uvalde, Texas (photo credit: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

With a majority of Texans, including 91% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans, in support of raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 years old to 21 years old and the school year about to start, the window of opportunity to act is closing. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying “Do what you feel in your heart is right — for you’ll be criticized anyway…” If that window closes, did Gov. Abbott’s inaction happen because it was the right thing to do or because he was afraid of losing support in an election year?

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Drew Landry

Drew Landry

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Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter