Less than two weeks after a gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart and killed 22 shoppers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a Domestic Terrorism Task Force to protect against statewide acts of extremism, his office announced in a Wednesday release.
The task force — comprising federal, state and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and El Paso police Chief Greg Allen — will analyze current and emerging state threats and form prevention and response strategies, the release says. Federal authorities have treated the El Paso shooting as an act of domestic terrorism after the discovery of a hate-filled manifesto, which they believe was authored by the gunman, warning of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” amid other racist and xenophobic language.
"Our top priority is to keep Texans safe in their communities," Abbott said in the release. "Part of that mission is to combat domestic terrorism and root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state. This task force brings together leaders with the expertise Texas needs to develop effective strategies and combat domestic terrorism.”
Members will provide recommendations on statewide security planning to Abbott’s office and aim to improve interagency cooperation in response to threats. The release did not mention any responsibilities related to revisiting Texas gun laws.
Abbott took similar action — which led to sweeping legislation — after 10 people were killed during a Santa Fe school shooting last year. The resulting school safety measure he signed into law instructed school districts to implement multihazard emergency operation plans, ensured district employees were trained to respond to emergencies and strengthened mental health initiatives available to children.
The task force in response to the El Paso shooting will convene for the first time Aug. 30 and meet on at least a quarterly basis afterward.
This piece was originally published in The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.