Texas school districts have begun distribution of DNA kits to parents after GOP Governor Greg Abbott signed a law mandating they be made available in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers were slaughtered in May.
“The state Legislature passed a law in spring 2021 requiring the Texas Education Agency to give inkless in-home fingerprint and DNA identification cards to each public school system in Texas,” The Houston Chronicle reports. “The kits will be made available at each primary-level campus. The cards are intended to be kept by guardians who can give them to law enforcement in order to potentially help find missing or trafficked children.”
The kits are available to any parent or guardian who requests them. They can be used to identify the bodies of their children in the event of another school mass shooting, or other event where it is difficult to ID a child.
Brandi Smith, an Emmy award-winning anchor and reporter at KHOU responded to the news, saying on social media that a “follower forwarded me the email about the DNA kits he received from Clear Creek ISD last week. He identified himself as retired Army and added these kits were used prior to soldiers deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan. Let that sink in.”
Gun violence prevention activist Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, blasted the move.
“Texas Gov Greg Abbott is choosing to send DNA kits to schools that parents can use to identify their children’s bodies AFTER they’ve been murdered rather than pass gun safety laws to proactively protect their lives,” she wrote, urging Texans to vote for Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the gubernatorial race.
Last month Everytown, the grassroots “movement of parents, students, survivors, educators, gun owners & concerned citizens fighting to end gun violence and build safer communities,” posted a chart showing the relationship between strong gun laws and lower gun violence.
“The states with the strongest gun laws—like California—have the lowest gun death rates. That’s not a coincidence,” the group, which includes Moms Demand Action, writes.
The states with the strongest gun laws—like California—have the lowest gun death rates. That’s not a coincidence.
— Everytown (@Everytown) September 25, 2022
California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, believed to be mulling a potential 2024 presidential run, also criticized prioritizing DNA test kits over changing gun laws.
“Greg Abbott’s solution to gun violence? Send DNA kits to schools so parents can identify their kids’ bodies AFTER they’ve been shot and killed.”
On its website, Everytown ranks the Lone Star State 34th in the country for “Gun Law Strength,” adds, “Texas has weak gun laws. The state does not require a person to pass a criminal background check before purchasing a firearm from an unlicensed seller. Texas also allows people with carry licenses to carry concealed firearms on college and university campuses. Texas even allows some staff and teachers to carry firearms in K-12 schools.”
“In an average year, 3,647 people die by guns in Texas,” the group notes.
Incumbent Governor Abbott is running for re-election against Democrat Beto O’Rourke. FiveThirtyEight reports the Texas Republican is polling about seven points higher than the former U.S. Congressman.
“Some families have found the [DNA test kits] program chilling, considering that police asked parents waiting to find out if their children were slaughtered at Robb Elementary on May 24 to provide DNA samples to help identify the dead,” The Houston Chronicle reports.
“When you put it in the light of Uvalde, it’s one of the most macabre things you could think about,” Bob Sanborn, president of the nonprofit Children at Risk, told The Chronicle.
“Among the countless chilling details to emerge from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas,” The New York Times reported back in May, “was this: The authorities had asked parents waiting in agony for news about their children to give DNA samples.”
“The request suggests that some of the 19 children who were killed may have been so severely wounded and grouped so closely together that they were difficult to identify, according to experts in medical forensics.”
Confirming the Times’ suggestion, NBC News also reported in May, after the Uvalde mass shooting – the deadliest shooting ever at a Texas public school – that, “Many of the bodies were in bad shape.”
Eulalio Diaz Jr., a justice of the peace forced to act as a medical examiner in Uvalde, “tried to spare the parents as much pain as possible, hoping to positively identify the murdered children through descriptions their parents gave of clothing they wore to school that day, of photos parents showed him.”
“But it wasn’t enough,” NBC added. “The bodies were too shot up. The Texas Rangers ordered DNA swabs of family members.”
Earlier this month Uvalde families joined together, saying, “Greg Abbott has abandoned us.”