'That must be stopped; 'Texas opens talks on safety after shootings

 That must be stopped; Texas opens talks on safety after shootings

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott opened a three-day series of discussions with lawmakers, school superintendents and public safety officials on improving school safety on Tuesday, days after a teenager killed 10 people at a Houston-area high school.

About 20 people, including supporters and opponents of arming teachers, attended the first meeting in the state capital, Austin, following the fourth-deadliest U.S. school shooting this year at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday.

"The problem is that innocent people are being shot and that must be stopped," Abbott, a staunch gun-rights supporter, told reporters before the meeting.

"We all want guns out of the hands of those who will try to murder our children. The questions is, what are we, the leaders of Texas, going to do to prevent this from happening again."

Abbott, a Republican, has vowed that any changes to state laws would "protect Second Amendment rights."

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms. Gun rights proponents say it prohibits regulations on gun ownership and that enforcement of existing laws should be sufficient to stop violent incidents like the one 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court has avoided major gun cases for a number of years, leaving in place restrictions on guns enacted by some states.

In contrast to Florida, where the killing of 17 teens and educators in February 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.

Some gun rights proponents in Texas have embraced the idea of arming teachers, a strategy advocated by the National Rifle Association and U.S. President Donald Trump. That solution is largely rejected by survivors and parents in Parkland, Florida, after the carnage there.

Police arrested Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, at the Santa Fe school following the rampage they said he committed with a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol. He is charged with capital murder of 10 people - eight students and two teachers.

Police said Pagourtzis confessed to Friday's killings after being taken into custody, but they have offered no motive yet for the massacre.

He is being held without bond, on suicide watch, at the Galveston County Jail in Galveston, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Four minutes after Pagourtzis started shooting, police entered the school's hallway and exchanged gunfire with him while he remained in a classroom, allowing the rest of the school to be evacuated, Trochesset said.

"They contained him in that one area, isolated to them, engaging with them, so that he did no more damage to other classes," the sheriff told a Monday news briefing.

Trochesset said he does not believe that any of the 10 deaths were caused by officers' gunfire but he said he could not rule that out until autopsies are performed.

(Writing by Brendan O'Brien; additional reporting by Erwin Seba in Santa Fe, Texas and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

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

Updated Date: May 23, 2018 02:05:50 IST