School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas Prompts Reevaluation of Gun Laws
Since Salvador Ramos fatally shot 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, officials have reevaluated gun control legislation across the country.
Many hope that the most deadly school shooting in the state of Texas, which came only days after a racially-motivated shooting in a grocery store in Buffalo, Texas, will prompt stricter gun laws. Others believe that the shootings provide incentives to allow citizens to open carry or arm teachers to protect students in schools.
Tens of thousands of protestors marched throughout the nation following the attacks, led by the March for Our Lives, a political movement started after the Parkland shooting in Florida. Counter-protestors in Fort Worth marched with “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.
The Largest Elementary School Shooting Since Sandy Hook
On May 17, Salvador Ramos purchased a semiautomatic rifle and 375 rounds of ammunition, just days after his eighteenth birthday. On the morning of May 24, Ramos shot his grandmother in the face before driving to Robb Elementary School. There, he spent almost 90 minutes inside the school before police intervention, according to authorities. During this time, he stayed in one classroom and killed 19 students and two teachers.
The shooter had a history of bullying and odd behavior according to friends, yet no criminal record prior to the shooting. According to Ramos’s cousin Mia, he was mocked for a speech impediment and gaming throughout junior high and high school. In the months prior to the shooting, he engaged in conversations about school shootings and buying guns on social media.
Throughout the hour Ramos was inside the school, several 911 calls were made from the classrooms asking for police help. Mixed accounts of police response have emerged, with public outcry mounting as footage resurfaces of parents begging officers to enter the school while children were trapped inside. The Uvalde school police chief, Pete Arredondo, was widely criticized for the delayed response and blamed miscommunication for his actions. Arredondo called for a sniper, tactical gear, and keys to enter the locked classroom that Ramos was in. This took over 40 minutes, during which Arredondo did not have his radio to communicate with other officers. Some believe that if the police had entered the classroom earlier, the gunman could have been stopped and lives could have been saved. A teacher who had been shot died in transport to the hospital, while a ten-year-old boy bled out while waiting for medical assistance for over an hour. “He could have been saved,” said the boy’s grandfather, Leonard Sandoval. “The police did not go in for more than an hour. He bled out.”
“They say they rushed in,” said Javier Cazares, whose daughter was killed in the attack. “We didn’t see that.”
Scrutiny has also mounted from other officials in Texas. The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, stated that Arrendondo made the “wrong decision” by not ordering officers to breach the classroom earlier. However, Arrendondo continues to defend his actions during the shooting.
“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” he said. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
Federal agents from border patrol ultimately confronted Ramos and killed him on school grounds. The Department of Justice announced that it would conduct a “critical incident review” of Uvalde police action during the school shooting.
On June 8, the House passed a gun control bill that would raise the age limit for buying semi-automatic rifles and ban the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds. The extensive bill was passed after the House heard testimonies from several survivors and family members of those who died during the Uvalde shooting. However, the bill is unlikely to be signed into law unless a filibuster in the Senate is broken.
However, on June 12, a bipartisan group of senators released a statement claiming to have reached an agreement on new gun legislation: “Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our county. Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.”
The proposed legislation would create “red flag” laws to remove dangerous weapons from those considered a danger to themselves or others, increase funding for school safety, provide money for mental health services, and strengthen the background check system for purchasing firearms. The agreement was spurred by the racially-motivated shooting in Buffalo, New York which was only days before the school shooting in Uvalde.
President Joe Biden also responded to the tragedies in an address on June 31: “As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
A response also came from the actor Matthew McConaughey, who was born and raised in Uvalde. During a White House speech, McConaughey advocated for stricter regulations on guns: “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back — they’re a step forward for civil society and, and the Second Amendment.”
What Happens Next?
Support for stricter gun control laws has spiked following the recent shootings, according to a Gallup poll. Yet gun regulation has been steadily chipped away in Texas for the past decades. A gun-control advocacy group, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, named Texas one of the worst states for gun control. During the 2022 primary, Governor Abbott signed a law that allowed Texans to carry handguns without license or training. This action was seen as a win for many conservatives in the state, and Abbott claimed that Texas must become a “Second Amendment sanctuary state.” Within the Senate and House, tense bipartisan agreements have edged forwards, though many doubt that Democrats and Republicans will be able to make an agreement on gun control legislation.
Thus, many doubt real change will be made within the government to ease or tighten gun control. A member of the Texas Politics Project, JoshuaBlank, stated, “As horrific as the most recent tragedy is, it seems unlikely to fundamentally shift the debate in Texas without a sustained effort on the part of those looking to strengthen Texas’ gun laws, or at least keep them from getting even more lenient.”
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