In the wake of another mass shooting in El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the formation of a domestic terrorism task force on Wednesday charged with analyzing and providing advice “on strategies to maximize law enforcement’s ability to protect against acts of domestic terrorism.”
The task force consists of the Gov., Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and representatives of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including El Paso police Chief Greg Allen.
The Texas Democratic Party and the ACLU have expressed concern that important community voices and groups are left out, which means important perspectives are once again being ignored.
Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) said in a statement, “it is both surprising and disappointing that a Hispanic Democratic chairman of the most relevant committee to the issue did not get a seat at the table.”
The first roundtable meeting of the Task Force will be held on Friday, August 30. The Task Force will meet quarterly and is expected to give legislative recommendations at the conclusion of the interim.
In addition to the Task Force, Abbott said in a town hall yesterday that his response to the El Paso shooting will include a separate set of roundtable meetings starting next week with the El Paso delegation.
Some Democrats and advocates worry that roundtables and task forces won’t be enough to spur real action and prevent another mass tragedy. Rep. Roland Gutierrez from San Antonio told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that, “We don’t honor anybody by having more round tables. We don’t honor anybody by paying lip service to creating task forces of ‘The Big Three.” He added that if Gov. Abbott “hasn’t heard enough from experts from the last two massacres that have happened in Texas, then I don’t know what he needs to hear and actually do something.”
Whether Texas will make substantive policy changes to prevent another tragedy like El Paso will depend on what happens in the next legislative session in 2021.