CHICAGO, May 23, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott met Tuesday with experts and politicians to discuss how to prevent school shootings, five days after a teenage gunman killed 10 people at a high school in the southern US state.
Abbott, a Republican, focused the first of three "roundtable sessions" on school safety. Over the next two days, gun regulation, mental health issues and victims' needs are also on the agenda.
The talks came in the aftermath of Friday's massacre at Santa Fe High School that killed eight children and two teachers in the latest example of the mass shootings that have become a pervasive part of American life.
"Whether you are Republican or Democrat... the reality is that we all want guns out of the hands of those who will try to murder our children," Abbott, who is up for re-election in November, said at the start of the session.
"The question is what are we -- the leaders of Texas -- going to do to prevent this from happening again."
Twenty-three people were invited to the first of the three closed-door meetings, including politicians from both parties, education and public safety officials, and experts on building design and arming teachers.
"The only thing we want to hear about is: what are your ideas," the governor told the gathering in opening remarks before journalists were ushered out.
Among the ideas that emerged during the meeting were to institute a statewide monitoring program of students' social media activities and "assistance teams" to help identify troubled children, according to The Dallas Morning News.
- 'People are the problem' -
After 17 people were shot dead at a Parkland, Florida high school in February, lawmakers in that southeastern state approved new, albeit limited, gun restrictions.
Some Parkland students, who have led a grassroots movement to toughen gun laws, have expressed their support to students in Santa Fe -- a rural community about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Houston.
But Texas is not expected to follow Florida's path in enacting new gun restrictions.
Gun ownership can be a point of pride for many in the Lone Star State, and even some Santa Fe High School students have spoken out against linking the shooting to the need for more gun control.
"I don't think guns are the problem. I think people are the problem," 16-year-old student Alex Carvey told NBC News.
In recent days, Abbott has focused his remarks on addressing mental health challenges and arming school personnel.
Texas's conservative and powerful lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, suggested after the shooting that school buildings may need fewer entrances and exits, and that violent video games may be partly to blame.
Patrick, who sets the agenda in the state's senate, attended the roundtable meeting.
Santa Fe was still reeling from the attack. Local police allowed students and staff to come back to campus for the first time to retrieve belongings such as backpacks and cars.
One of the 13 people injured, a police officer who confronted suspected gunman Dimitrios Pagourtzis, remained hospitalized in critical condition.
Meanwhile, Pagourtzis's father told The Wall Street Journal newspaper that he suspected his 17-year-old son had been bullied in school.
"I believe that's what was behind" the shooting, Antonios Pagourtzis told the newspaper.