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‘Words must be met with action’: State lawmakers respond to Odessa mass shooting

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ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) — FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Combs says his agency is faced with an active shooter situation almost every two weeks. The same team that was at the Sutherland Springs shooting in November 2017 is the same team that’s responding to Saturday’s mass shooting in Odessa.  

“Unfortunately, we will get ready to go to the next shooting event, which is an unfortunate thing to say, but it seems like it’s what we do,” Combs said. 

While investigators continued working on more than 15 crime scenes from Saturday’s mass shooting in Odessa, state and local elected officials joined Gov. Greg Abbott for an afternoon press conference at the University of Texas Permian Basin.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke would not name the suspect when he released additional details. Out of the 22 people injured, three of them are from law enforcement. The seven people killed have ages ranging from 15 to 57 years old.

Gov. Abbott says there’s a sense of urgency by state leaders and legislators to find solutions following this latest shooting. 

“We must broaden our efforts to address the tragedy that has fallen on Odessa and we must do so quickly,” he said. “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals like the killer here in Odessa, while also ensuring that we safeguard Second Amendment rights.” 

“We know that words alone are inadequate,” Abbott added. “Words must be met with action.”

But what those actions could look like remain a big question. 

“What we cannot do is nothing,” State Sen. Ken Seliger, R-Amarillo, said. 

When asked whether the state is doing enough regarding assault rifle-style weapons, Abbott responded saying that not all shootings in Texas have involved assault rifles, such as the one in Santa Fe.  

Following the mass shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen others earlier in August, Abbott formed both the Texas Safety Commission and the Domestic Terrorism Task Force. Altogether, both groups have held three meetings so far. 

The FBI does not believe there was a connection to domestic or international terrorism in this shooting and authorities confirmed this was a single-shooter event. 

Legislators recognize that these ongoing discussions can get complicated. 

“We interact a lot with the Governor and law enforcement to say, ‘Here’s our problem,’” Seliger said. “Let’s define it very clearly. What are our solutions to the problem? That’s where it gets complex because we have issues, in this case, that deal with the Second Amendment and private property and things like that. We have to take all those things into consideration.” 

State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who has served in the Texas House of Representatives since he was in his 20s, commended law enforcement, first responders and hospital staff for their swift response during the shooting. 

“I think we owe a lot of gratitude to the agencies,” he said.  

Craddick says they’ll have to study policies other states have explored or enacted to see what may work. He also isn’t ruling out that steps could be taken before the Texas Legislature meets again in 2021 if lawmakers and the Governor find potentially actionable items.  

“The Governor could, if he finds something that he thinks will help, some strong laws that won’t get a lot of pushback, he could call a special session,” he said. 

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