Abbott’s school safety plan respects the 2nd Amendment

Photo by Bob Daemmrich/BDP, Inc.

Times of tragedy call for clarity in words and deeds so as to not deepen the damage done by those with evil intent. I commend Gov. Greg Abbott for the clarity of his leadership and for his draft School and Firearm Safety Plan developed with input from victims, parents, superintendents, teachers, lawmakers, law enforcement and mental health experts following the tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School.

I’ve been around Texas politics longer than many. I’ve defended our liberties as a Marine, as a lawmaker, as author of our state’s concealed handgun law, and as a proud patriot and Texan. I don’t pander — I say what I mean, and mean what I say. I doubt there has ever been a Texas governor with a more pro-gun record than this one. He is a potent force and national leader in the essential defense of our liberty.

I know the governor will never allow our individual right to keep and bear arms — given by God and secured by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — to ever be infringed. We stand together in promoting responsible gun ownership, as all gun owners should, and that includes keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

There have recently been erroneous criticisms about the governor’s plan as it relates to the 2nd Amendment. In addition to critical measures to improve school safety such as more armed and trained personnel on campus and increased access to mental health resources and funding, his plan proposes six measures to enhance firearm safety while preserving our constitutional rights, including:

  1. Closing reporting gaps for federal background checks by creating a case management system for Texas judges;
  2. Encouraging the Legislature to carefully study the possible creation of a “red flag” law to permit the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person — only after legal due process is provided, and on a temporary basis;
  3. Requiring the courts to report within 48 hours any judgment, protective order or family violence conviction affecting the right to legally purchase and possess firearms;
  4. Strengthening the state’s existing safe firearm storage law by changing the definition of “child” to include 17-year-olds, clarifying that secure storage of a loaded or unloaded firearm around children is required, and increasing the penalty level from a Class A misdemeanor to a 3rd-degree felony when access results in death or serious bodily injury;
  5. Promoting the voluntary use of devices to secure firearms; and
  6. Requiring gun owners to report within 10 days when their firearms are lost or stolen to aid law enforcement.

I am 100 percent supportive of the objectives laid out by the governor, but like you, I need to see the final product or draft legislation. Some of the proposals are “no brainers.” Some raise serious concerns. When all is said and done, I’m confident:

The governor’s plan will protect lawful gun ownership and respect the 2nd Amendment.

It will not create a new mandatory storage law.

It will not change any law that allows for self-defense, including the castle doctrine.

It will not change or undermine any law or constitutional provision that protects the right to bear arms for any lawful purpose.

It will provide for due process, and protect our constitutional rights, particularly those enumerated in the 2nd, 4th, and 5th amendments to the federal constitution and the comparable provisions in the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Each of Gov. Abbott’s proposals should generate respectful debate, not online outrage by some who may not have read his plan and aren’t familiar with current law. I invite my fellow citizens to read the plan in full and then present cogent arguments for and against each measure, or offer new ideas.

That is our responsibility, as Texans, gun owners and proud patriots: to prevent the loss of more innocent lives in the future while preserving our constitutional rights.

Jerry Patterson has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Jerry Patterson

Former land commissioner of Texas