In the hours after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde in May, Gov. Greg Abbott praised the work of law enforcement, saying that without the police the massacre of 19 students and two teachers “could have been worse.”
That narrative didn’t last long.
A Texas House committee report on the shooting confirms many damning details about the police response, including the first full accounting of all law enforcement officers on hand that day: 376 responders from across 23 federal, state and local agencies.
But James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that the report is as important for what’s left unsaid as what is. His analysis of the report is titled “Political evasions taint the work of the House Committee Report on the Robb Elementary School Mass Shooting.”
“I think two things stood out to me upon reading the report,” Henson tells Texas Standard. The first: the massive amount of Department of Public Safety troopers there that day, numbering 91 in total. “I was struck by the fact initially that there’s really very little detail of what DPS was or was not doing, given the detail about almost everything else that the report covers. And I think it does lead to political questions about why we know so much about what everyone else was doing and so little about what DPS was doing.”
“The second thing I really noticed was just how big the report was about the significance of the weapon that was used in the assault:” a high-powered, AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.
“It was really striking in the report how much detail there is about just what a large role the presence of the semi-automatic rifle that was used in the assault played on the police response,” Henson says, noting the report includes a “borderline literary description” of the destruction the rifle wreaked. “And yet,” he says, there’s “no direct engagement of the impact that the presence of those munitions had on the lackluster police response.”
“I think the trickle out of information about all of this has been not something that incumbents in the state really want in the election environment,” Henson says, noting the November elections. “And I’m not questioning [incumbents’] sincere regrets about the shooting.” But he adds, the report’s lack of curiosity about the DPS response and how the shooter’s AR-15-style rifle impeded police response are “a stark absence when you know that guns are a big issue among a very mobilized core of the Republican base, who do not want more gun control. And it’s a subject that I think most elected officials that are incumbents and Republicans in the state, frankly, don’t want to talk much more about – particularly of the role of the weapon in contributing to the outcome – when you vote.”