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'Mistakes were made' on campaign letter sent before El Paso massacre, Texas governor says

"I emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way," the governor said.
Image: Greg Abbott, Dennis Bonnen, Dan Patrick
From center, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, with Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, from right, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, from left, makes opening statements during a round table discussion in Austin, Texas on Aug. 22, 2019.Eric Gay / AP file

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that “mistakes were made” regarding a fundraising letter he sent the day before the El Paso domestic terror attack that killed 22 people and wounded 24 more.

Abbott led a roundtable with state and local officials, survivors and families of victims to come up with measures that can be taken to prevent another mass shooting.

He spent an hour speaking to the El Paso delegation about the controversy that erupted over the letter, in which he called on supporters to “DEFEND Texas”. He also drew backlash when he said in a tweet last week that the state had been forced to pay for the education of “illegal immigrants.”

“I did have the opportunity to visit with the El Paso delegation and help them understand that mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” Abbott said.

“I emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way and we will make sure we work collaboratively and in unification,” he said.

Democrats though were not happy with Abbott's comments, saying he didn't actually apologize for the letter. and said he has yet to pledged not to use white supremacist language in the future. "Abbott has an apology to make," said Manny Garcia, Texas Democratic Party executive director.

The roundtable discussions have been closed to media and the public, open only to those invited to participate. That has made some unhappy.

Mothers Demand Action, a gun control group, had wanted to attend but was not on the invitation list. They held a rally outside while the roundtable was going on.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Democratic congresswoman who represents El Paso, also was not invited to the roundtable and was told that even though an invitation was extended to her by one of the victims of the attack, she would not be allowed into the meeting.

She participated in the Moms Demand Action demonstration outside the meeting and also sent a tweet reiterating a demand made by others after the shooting — that the governor call a special session to address gun violence.

In opening remarks for the roundtable, Abbott said the screed that police have said was posted by the suspect in the attack never mentioned El Paso, but repeatedly mentioned Texas, the Hispanic community and blended communities.

The author complained about a "Hispanic invasion', comments that some said were similar to those made by President Donald Trump and by Texas state officials. The screed also criticized the mixing of cultures.

Abbott said all of Texas and residents of different cultures were targeted, including his own.

"His target was Texas. The Texas culture. The Hispanic community and blended communities," he said.

“Some of the victims of this horrific crime are blended communities. My family is blended community. My wife is the first Hispanic first lady in Texas. Her family came from Mexico,” he said.

The attack and previous mass shootings in the state have put Texas' pro-gun culture under scrutiny, but there is skepticism about whether there will be much reform of its gun laws.

In the first roundtable on the El Paso shootings held last week in Austin, there was some agreement on a need to close gaps in existing gun laws and expedite information on background checks for gun purchases, but there was no consensus on addressing access to assault rifles.

Similar roundtables were held after another mass shooting in the state, at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018. Eight students and two teachers were killed and 13 others were wounded. The school shooting occurred about six months after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed and 20 wounded.

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