Same grief, different outcomes: Texas mulls school safety

 Same grief, different outcomes: Texas mulls school safety

By Erwin Seba

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) - Mourners knelt before white wooden crosses on Monday outside the Texas high school where 10 people were killed in the fourth deadly U.S. school shooting this year, an image recalling similar gatherings following February's Florida school massacre.

A crowd of a few dozen people, including student survivors of the attack, family members, chaplains and police gathered outside the school to observe a 10 a.m. CT (1500 GMT) moment of silence called for by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

In contrast to Florida, where the deaths of 17 teens and educators sparked a youth-led movement calling for new restrictions on gun ownership, the Texas tragedy saw elected officials and survivors alike voicing support for gun rights.

Abbott, who noted that the 17-year-old accused of the attack appeared to used weapons legally owned by his father in the Friday attack at Santa Fe High School, was due to begin a series of roundtable meetings with parents, educators and other officials on improving school safety.

"We need to do more than just pray for the victims and the families," Abbott said on Friday at the school outside Houston following the attack. He said any legal changes considered would "protect Second Amendment rights."

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms. Gun rights proponents say that language prohibits regulations on gun ownership and argue that enforcement of existing laws should be sufficient to stop violence like the scenes that played out in Santa Fe.

Gun control groups point to the regular toll of shootings across the United States as evidence that more needs to be done to rein in the proliferation of weapons.

Abbott spokesman Stephen Chang said the governor was finalising plans for the roundtables, including the dates and participants.

Mike Collier, a Democrat running for Texas lieutenant governor, expressed scepticism that the discussions would lead to significant change.

"All I hear is talk. Talk is cheap," Collier said on Twitter. "What we need is action."

Police arrested Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, at the Santa Fe school following the rampage that they said he carried out with a shotgun and .38-caliber pistol. He has been charged with murder.

Two teachers and eight students, including Pakistani exchange student Sabika Sheikh, 17, were killed in the attack, police said.

Her father, Aziz Sheikh, said on Monday he hoped the death of his daughter, who wanted to serve her country as a civil servant or diplomat, would spur gun control in the United States.

"Sabika's case should become an example to change the gun laws," Sheikh said in a phone interview from the family home in Karachi.

SHOTGUN GIVEAWAY

Abbott's campaign website on Monday dropped a contest which gave donors a chance to win a shotgun, one of the types of weapons used in Friday's attack, the Houston Chronicle reported.

That had drawn criticism from Texas gun-control advocates, including the organizers of the Houston March for Our Lives, the national protests that followed the Florida shooting.

"Abbott's decision to continue the raffle was disrespectful to the Santa Fe community," the group said on Twitter. "We are glad he has chosen to modify the giveaway."

The Abbott spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the campaign contest.

Classmates at the high school described Pagourtzis as a quiet loner who played on the football team. The attacker wore a black trench coat to school even in the Texas heat on Friday.

Police said Pagourtzis confessed to Friday's killings after he was taken into custody but authorities have offered no motive yet for the massacre.

Pagourtzis' family said in a statement it was "saddened and dismayed" by the shooting and "as shocked as anyone else" by the events.

February's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompted a March law creating a $67 million statewide fund to train teachers to carry weapons in the classroom. Parkland itself rejected its share of that funding.

In Santa Fe, some students were more interested in that idea, with 18-year-old Kassidy Monroe saying, "In some cases arming teachers may help."

(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Santa Fe, Texas, Saad Sayeed in Islamabad and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Rich McKay and Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: May 22, 2018 01:05:41 IST