Texas lawmaker says Uvalde police agree to cooperate with probe

In recent weeks, law enforcement officials have stopped providing new updates about the shooting, raising concern.

Since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas Republican leaders in the state have called for more mental health funding, but not new gun restrictions [Lisa Krantz/Reuters]

Police in the town of Uvalde, Texas have agreed to speak to a committee investigating a massacre at a primary school last month that killed 19 children and two teachers, according to a United States lawmaker leading the probe.

Republican representative from Texas Dustin Burrows signalled impatience with Uvalde police, tweeting that most people had fully cooperated with their investigation “to help determine the facts” and that he did not understand why the city’s police force “would not want the same.”

“Took a little bit longer than we initially had expected,” Burrows said on Friday.

The development comes weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. The shooting, which happened less than two weeks after a racist shot dead 10 people in Buffalo, New York, reignited a national debate on gun control. It has also spurred a rare – albeit fraught – bipartisan effort to do more to curb gun violence in the country.

Earlier this month, families and survivors of gun violence victims testified before a committee in Congress in a renewed plea for gun control.

Law enforcement officials have stopped providing updates about what they have learned about the shooting and the police response. Their silence comes after authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts in the days after the shooting, sometimes withdrawing statements hours after making them.

Uvalde police did not reply to messages seeking comment from the Associated Press.

Officials also have not released records sought under public information laws to media outlets, including the AP, often citing broad exemptions and the ongoing investigation. It has raised concerns about whether such records will be released, even to victims’ families.

The Texas House committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses behind closed doors so far, including state police, school staff and school district police. The list of witnesses provided by the committee so far has not included Pete Arrendondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, who has faced criticism over his actions during the attack.

Burrows defended the committee interviewing witnesses in private and not revealing their findings, saying its members want an accurate account before issuing a report.

“One person’s truth may be different than another person’s truth,” Burrows said.

Gun reform hurdles

Since the shooting, Republican leaders in Texas have called for more mental health funding but not new gun restrictions. Authorities say the 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Police did not confront the shooter for more than an hour, even as anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go in.

Arredondo defended his actions in a recent interview and said that he did not consider himself the person in charge as the tragedy unfolded.

But the bipartisan effort to forge gun reform in the US has been facing major hurdles.

Man holding signs
Uvalde residents have held protests calling for accountability and the removal of Uvalde schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo [Lisa Krantz/Reuters]

On Thursday, the lead Republican negotiator in the US Senate drive to craft a bipartisan gun safety bill walked out of the talks, while the lead Democrat remained optimistic that lawmakers could vote on legislation before leaving for a two-week July 4 recess.

The group announced a framework on measures to curb gun violence on Sunday. It did not go as far as Democrats, including President Joe Biden, had sought — but if passed, would still be the most significant action to combat gun violence to emerge from Congress in years.

Disagreements remained over two main provisions: how to provide incentives to states to create “red flag” laws, in which guns can be temporarily taken away from people who are deemed dangerous; and the “boyfriend loophole”, which allows authorities to block abusive spouses from buying firearms but does not cover “intimate partners” who are not married.

Time to pass major legislation is running short as the November 8 midterm elections, when Republicans are looking to win back control of Congress, draw nearer.

Lawmakers told reporters on Thursday that staff have begun drafting legislative text for the majority of provisions that lawmakers have agreed on.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies