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Santa Fe school massacre unlikely to bring change to gun-obsessed Texas

Click to play video: 'Texas lieutenant governor says armed teachers could’ve stopped school shooter, calls for ‘hardened’ structures' Texas lieutenant governor says armed teachers could’ve stopped school shooter, calls for ‘hardened’ structures
WATCH: Texas lieutenant governor says armed teachers could’ve stopped school shooter, calls for ‘hardened’ structures – May 20, 2018

Texas has more than 1.2 million licensed handgun owners who can openly carry their weapons in public. The state hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting two weeks ago. And until Monday, the governor’s re-election website was raffling off a shotgun.

Guns are so hard-wired into Texas culture that last week’s deadly rampage at Santa Fe High School is considered unlikely to result in any significant restrictions on access to weapons in the Lone Star State.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott reacted to the killings of eight students and two teachers by calling for a series of roundtable discussions on school safety, starting Tuesday in Austin. He said last week that he wants to find ways to keep guns away from those who pose an “immediate danger to others.”

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But the state’s 20-year dominance by the Republican Party all but guarantees the meetings will be dominated by calls to boost school security and “harden” campuses — an idea backed by the NRA — instead of demands for gun restrictions, said Cal Jillson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

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That’s in sharp contrast to the response to the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Three weeks after the bloodbath, Florida politicians defied the NRA and passed a gun control package after a lobbying campaign led by student survivors of the attack.

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Crosses crafted for Texas high school shooting victims – May 21, 2018

“The difference in Texas is the Republican Party is in complete control. It is unchallenged at the state level,” Jillson said. “Even the young people from Santa Fe are not full-throated advocates of gun control to keep the children safe.”

In fact, at a church service Sunday, Santa Fe High student Monica Bracknell, who survived the shooting, told the governor the attack should not be turned into a battle over gun control.

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“People are making this into a political issue,” she said. “This is not a political issue. It’s not a gun-law issue.”

WATCH: U.S. House holds moment of silence for victims of Texas high school shooting

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U.S. House holds moment of silence for victims of Texas high school shooting – May 21, 2018

Similarly, Callie Wylie, a 16-year-old Santa Fe High student who dropped off flowers Monday at a memorial for the shooting victims, said the violence is not a “gun problem.”

“Obviously things need to change. Something needs to happen. This has happened way too much,” Wylie said. “But I don’t think at this time people need to be pushing politics on us and telling us, ‘Oh, this is gun control.’”

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Sentiments like those could give Abbott political cover if his roundtable discussions don’t lead to major changes.

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Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, is jailed on murder charges in Friday’s attack. Authorities said the Santa Fe High student opened fire with his father’s shotgun and .38-caliber handgun.

Gun control advocates around the country have long pressed for such measures as expanded background checks and a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, but such measures would probably have had no effect on the Santa Fe High shooting.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas students from Florida blast lawmakers over lack of action on gun control – May 23, 2018

Abbott has said he wants the roundtable discussions to include lawmakers, educators, students, parents, gun-rights advocates and survivors of the November church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that killed two dozen people.

Tuesday’s meeting will include officials from school districts that arm some teachers or contract with local police for security. The governor’s office said most of the meeting will be held in private.

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Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of guns laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed “open carry” for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.

WATCH: Texas lawmakers call for stricter gun control after Santa Fe school shooting

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Texas lawmakers call for stricter gun control after Santa Fe school shooting – May 19, 2018

In 2015, Abbott tweeted that it was “embarrassing” that Texas lagged behind California in gun sales. In 2017, he bragged about his accuracy with a pistol at a shooting range.

On Monday, Abbott’s re-election campaign scaled back its shotgun raffle in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, replacing it with a raffle for a $250 gift certificate. A photograph of the governor aiming a shotgun was removed.

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READ MORE: In wake of Texas school shooting, lieutenant governor pushes for ‘hardening’ of schools

After the Florida tragedy, President Donald Trump organized discussions on how to prevent school shootings and at least mentioned the idea of limiting gun sales, though little concrete came out of those. Abbott so far has committed to even less.

Texas holds primary runoffs Tuesday, meanwhile, and the Santa Fe shooting is not expected to be a deciding factor in any major race, just as the Sutherland Springs massacre barely registered as a campaign issue before last week.

And it’s not just Republicans. Former Dallas County Sherriff Lupe Valdez, who is favored to win Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial runoff and face Abbott in November, has called for stricter background checks and closing of gun sale loopholes.

WATCH: Victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting identified

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Victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting identified – May 19, 2018

But she was quick to add: “That doesn’t mean I’m against guns. I’ve worn a gun over 40 years. It means I’m against stupidity.”

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In a letter to the governor on Monday, Democratic state lawmakers urged Abbott to consider gun control measures that failed to pass in previous sessions.

Still, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a lawyer who is favored to win a runoff for the Democratic nomination in a potentially flippable, Republican-held congressional district in Houston, not far from where Friday’s shooting took place, refrained from criticizing the governor for not doing more than organizing discussions.

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Trump admin looking at ‘best ways to protect kids’: Sanders – May 19, 2018

“I hope that these discussions move us closer to real reform,” Fletcher said Monday. “Our lives depend on it.”

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