Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (C) gives updates on social services available to victims' families following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Friday. Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE
May 27 (UPI) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday said he was "misled" about the police response to the Uvalde elementary school shooting days after praising the response of law enforcement.
Abbott, speaking during a news conference about state aid available to families of the 19 children and two teachers who were shot dead Tuesday, said he was briefed on law enforcement's response before praising their "amazing courage" on Wednesday.
"Yes, I was misled. I am livid about what happened. I was on this very stage two days ago and I was telling the public information that had been told to me in a room just a few yards behind where we are right now," Abbott said Friday.
"I wrote down hand notes in detail about what everybody in that room told me, in sequential order about what happened. When I came out here on this stage and told the public what happened, it was a recitation of what people in that room told me."
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw admitted Friday that police made the "wrong decision" not to immediately breach the Robb Elementary School classroom where a gunman barricaded himself and killed students and teachers.
Before McCraw's admission, videos had surfaced online showing parents pleading with police to breach the elementary school.
"My expectation is that as we speak and every minute going forward, law enforcement is going to earn the trust of the public by doing exactly what they're supposed to do from this point on," Abbott said.
During the news conference, Abbott was asked if he would roll back any of the laws he had signed expanding rights for gun owners.
"Let's be clear about one thing: None of the laws that I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all. No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun," Abbott said.
"There was nothing about the laws from this past session that has any relevancy to the crime that happened here."
Abbott revealed that he "absolutely" expects new laws to come from the Uvalde shooting in "multiple different subject areas," including addressing healthcare and school safety. He did not promise to institute any further gun control measures.
"Let me be perfectly clear. The status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. We're not going to be here talking about it and then do nothing about it," Abbott said.
"We will be looking for the best laws that we can get passed to make our communities and schools safer."
When asked about background checks for gun seekers, Abbott pointed to the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas in May 2018 during which 10 people were killed.
"Look at what happened in the Santa Fe shooting. A background check had no relevancy whatsoever because the killer took the gun from his parent. Look at the shooting that happened in Sutherland Springs. There was a background check that was done," Abbott said.
"So anyone who suggests that maybe we should focus on background checks as opposed to mental health, I suggest to you as mistaken."
In the wake of such shootings, Texas passed laws in 2019 that "hardened" schools but the Texas Tribune reported that many of those elements have fallen short. In 2017, Abbott also appeared to joke about shooting reporters after signing a bill that reduced the cost to get a license to carry a handgun.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde County, crashed Abbott's news conference and said his colleagues were asking for a special session to pass gun control measures.
"My colleagues are asking for a special session. You're getting a letter tomorrow. We've asked for gun control changes. I'm asking you now to bring us back in three weeks," Gutierrez said.
Abbott said earlier in the news conference that "all options were on the table" regarding a special session.
The interruption by Gutierrez came just days after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke approached Abbott on the same stage to ask for gun control rules.
Also Friday, Abbott said Texas has "tremendous benefits that can aid those who are suffering and those who continue to suffer, sometimes for many years."
"We have an obligation as a state to communicate to the people of this community the benefits that are available to them. Their lives are crushed. They have no idea what's going on and they may have no idea whatsoever how they're going to pay a bill," Abbott said.
"There was a parent who lost some glasses that were crushed in everything that happened and he told somebody that he had no money to pay for it. We have money to pay for that stuff. There are people who have no idea about getting food. We have money that can buy them food."
The fund will be used to cover immediate needs, such as healthcare expenses, flights and travel for families, and funeral expenses, as well as long-term needs to support the community's recovery, according to a news release.
"There are all kinds of needs as well as all kinds of services," Abbott said.
"One of the needs is the need for mental healthcare and we have an abundance of mental healthcare services that we are going to be able provide, that includes state and private providers that will be providing mental health assistance to anyone in the community who needs it."
The governor also announced the establishment of a OneStar Foundation fund to assist with the ongoing challenges that will be faced by the victims of this crime.
"Healing broken hearts is going to take a long time," Abbott said. "But through the generosity of our fellow Texans and the good works of neighbors helping neighbors we can begin to stitch back together the fabric of Uvalde."