By Erwin Seba
SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters)

Mourners knelt before white wooden crosses on Monday outside the Texas high school where 10 people were killed in the fourth deadly U.S. school shooting this year, an image recalling similar gatherings after February’s Florida school massacre

A few dozen people, including student survivors of the attack, family members, chaplains and police, gathered at 10 a.m. outside Santa Fe High School to observe a moment of silence called for by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

 

Galveston County Sheriff's Office photo of Dimitrios Pagourtzis the suspect in the Santa Fe High School shooting in Santa Fe Texas
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the Santa Fe High School shooting is shown in this booking photo at the Galveston County Jail, released by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. Courtesy Galveston County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

 

In contrast to Florida, where the deaths of 17 teens and educators 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.

 

People write messages on a cross at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
People write messages on a cross at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Some embraced the idea of arming teachers, a strategy advocated by the National Rifle Association and U.S. President Donald Trump but largely rejected by survivors and parents in Parkland, Florida, after the carnage there.

“I’d be comfortable with our teachers having guns,” said Tessa Ybarra, 15, a sophomore at Santa Fe High School. “If Ms. T and Ms. Perkins had had guns, maybe they could have protected themselves,” she said, referring to Cynthia Tisdale and Glenda Ann Perkins, the two teachers killed on Friday.

 

Mourners gather at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Mourners gather at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Abbott, who noted that the 17-year-old accused of the attack appeared to have used weapons legally owned by his father, planned on Tuesday to open a three-day series of roundtable meetings with educators and law enforcement officials on improving school safety.

 

A chaplain carries a cross bearing the name of a victim killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
A chaplain carries a cross bearing the name of a victim killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

“We need to do more than just pray for the victims and the families,” Abbott said on Friday at the school, located about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Houston, following the attack. He said any changes considered to state laws would “protect Second Amendment rights.”

 

Chaplains pray at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Chaplains pray at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

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 argue that enforcement of existing laws should be sufficient to stop violence like the scenes that played out in Santa Fe.

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.

 

Mourners observe a moment of silence at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Mourners observe a moment of silence at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

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.

Abbott said the list of nearly two dozen participants for his meetings includes both supporters and opponents of arming teachers.

 

Mourners hold candles during a vigil in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in League City
Mourners hold candles during a vigil in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in League City, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Mike Collier, a Democrat running for Texas lieutenant governor, expressed scepticism that the talks would bring significant change.

“Dozens of Texans have been killed in massacres just six months apart … and our state leadership feebly announces ’roundtables,'” Collier said, alluding to the fatal shooting in November of 26 people at a church in rural Sutherland Springs.

 

Mourners embrace at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Mourners embrace at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

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

 

Lori Simmons, of Santa Fe, prays at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Lori Simmons, of Santa Fe, prays at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Her father, Aziz Sheikh, said on Monday he hoped his daughter’s death would spur gun control in the United States.

“Sabika’s case should become an example to change the gun laws,” Sheikh said in a phone interview.

 

SHOTGUN GIVEAWAY

Abbott’s re-election campaign website on Monday dropped a contest offering donors the chance to win a shotgun, a fund-raising promotion that Texas gun-control advocates criticized as insensitive.

 

Members of Sabika Sheikh's host family are comforted by community members after a funeral prayer service at the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford
Members of Sabika Sheikh’s host family are comforted by community members after a funeral prayer service at the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, Texas. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Campaign spokesman John Wittman said the contest began on May 1, well before Friday’s gun violence, though critics noted the shotgun offer remained posted days after the shooting.

“Abbott’s decision to continue the raffle was disrespectful to the Santa Fe community,” Houston March for Our Lives, a group which is part of the national protest movement that arose from the Florida high school massacre, said on Twitter.

 

Crosses bearing the name of of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School are seen in Santa Fe
Crosses bearing the name of of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School are seen in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Police said Pagourtzis confessed to Friday’s killings after he was taken into custody, but they have offered no motive yet for the massacre. Pagourtzis is being held without bond, on suicide watch, at the Galveston County Jail in nearby Galveston, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Pagourtzis’ family said in a statement it was “saddened and dismayed” by the shooting.

 

Jai Gillard, a freshman at Santa Fe High School, is comforted by a chaplain at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting in Santa Fe
Jai Gillard, a freshman at Santa Fe High School, is comforted by a chaplain at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompted enactment of a law creating a $67 million statewide fund to train school personnel to carry weapons on the job, though the measure excludes most classroom teachers. Parkland rejected its share of that funding.

 

Santa Fe Mayor Elect Jason Tabor speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe
Santa Fe Mayor Elect Jason Tabor speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

In Santa Fe, some students were more interested in that idea. Said 18-year-old Kassidy Monroe: “In some cases arming teachers may help.”

Other students and parents said they supported installation of metal detectors at school entrances.

 

 

Cindy Evans, 48, whose 15-year-old son attends Santa Fe High, said she felt the solution ultimately lay elsewhere.

“Honestly,” she said, “I think it starts at home with the parents these days that don’t know what’s going on with their kids.”

 

(Additional reporting Saad Sayeed in Islamabad and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Rich McKay and Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)

 

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe
Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Santa Fe ISD Police Chief Walter Braun speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe
Santa Fe ISD Police Chief Walter Braun speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

 

Chaplains carry crosses with the names of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe
Chaplains carry crosses with the names of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman