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Massacre triggers debate over US gun laws

Teen gunman kills 19 kids, two teachers in Texas school

Armed with multiple weapons, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was eventually shot dead by cops

New York Times News Service Uvalde (Texas) Published 26.05.22, 02:43 AM
The pace of gun buying has risen over the last two years, and so has the toll of gun violence, especially on children.

The pace of gun buying has risen over the last two years, and so has the toll of gun violence, especially on children. Twitter

A teenaged gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers in a single fourth-grade classroom at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday before barricading himself and shooting at police officers as they tried to enter the building.

He was eventually shot dead, an official said.The massacre — the deadliest school shooting since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, 10 years ago — has reignited a national debate over America’s gun laws.


Harrowing details began to emerge on Wednesday of the massacre inside the Robb Elementary School in the city of Uvalde, as anguished families learned whether their children were among those killed by the 18-year-old gunman’s rampage.

Several other children were injured.The gunman, whom officials identified as Salvador Ramos, was armed with multiple weapons. The police circled the school, broke windows to try and evacuate children and staff, breached the classroom and killed the gunman, Lt Chris Olivarez, spokesperson for the Texas department of public safety, said.

Ramos began his rampage by shooting his 66-year-old grandmother at home. He then drove to the nearby school where he crashed his car and entered the building wearing tactical gear and carrying a rifle, authorities said. His grandmother survived but is in critical condition.

Investigators hope she can shed light on the motive for the shooting.Acquaintances said the gunman, who attended a nearby high school, frequently missed class and had few friends.Classes at Robb Elementary were to let out on Thursday for the summer.

On the school district’s calendar for summer break were extracurricular programmes in tennis and fine arts.But instead of summer plans, parents were faced with the unthinkable, waiting for hours for the dreaded confirmation about the fate of their children, some having provided DNA swabs to prove their relationship.Sobs could be heard outside the civic centre, used as a makeshift reunification centre.

Some struggled to walk back to their cars after receiving the news.The two staff members killed were Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, fourth-grade teachers who worked in the same classroom.Mireles, who loved running and hiking, had an adult daughter and a husband who works as a police officer. Garcia, who worked at the school for more than two decades, had four children.

Gun debateThe attack prompted President Joe Biden to call for stricter gun safety laws in a prime-time address to the American people.

As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name we’re going to stand up to the gun lobby, when in God’s name we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done,” he said, his voice rising in a crescendo.Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff daily until sunset on Saturday.

I am sick and tired of it. We have to act,” Biden, a Democrat, said, without proposing specific legislation.But the prospects for legislation remained dim in Washington.

Virtually all Republicans in Congress oppose new gun restrictions, citing the US Constitution’s guarantee of a right to bear arms.World leaders expressed shock and sympathy. Pope Francis on Wednesday said he was “heartbroken” and called for an end to “the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons”.Even before the pandemic, the US had more guns than citizens.

The pace of gun buying has risen over the last two years, and so has the toll of gun violence, especially on children.

That is true even in states, such as New York, that have relatively strong gun laws: Ten days before Uvalde became a focus of national attention, a gunman fatally shot 10 people inside a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat and leading advocate for legislation to restrict the proliferation of guns, told reporters: “You know, guns flow in this country like water.

And that’s why we have mass shooting after mass shooting.”The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives last year passed two bills expanding background checks on firearm purchases, including closing a loophole that exempts online and private sales. But the legislation has not advanced in the Senate, where at least 10 Republican votes are needed.

After Tuesday’s shooting, at least two Texas Republican elected officials called for beefing up security at schools and arming teachers, an approach opposed by gun control advocates.On the state level, Texas has forged ahead with some of the country’s least restrictive gun laws.

In 2021 — two years after twin mass shootings left more than two dozen people dead in El Paso, Midland and Odessa — governor Greg Abbott signed a wide-ranging law that made the state one of the largest to essentially eliminate most restrictions on the ability to carry handguns.Tuesday’s shooting comes days before the National Rifle Association, the gun industry’s main lobbying group, is to hold its annual meeting in Houston.

Several prominent Texas Republicans, including governor Abbott and US senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, are scheduled to speak to attendees.The non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks mass shootings, has counted more than 200 incidents so far this year, defined as those in which four or more people were killed or injured.

In Texas, a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs in 2017. A mass shooting killed 10 people at a Houston-area high school the next year, and 23 people died at a Walmart in El Paso in a 2019 attack motivated by racial hatred.

Willows, maplesRobb Elementary lies in a rural area dotted with desert willows and bigtooth maples in Uvalde, a town founded in 1853 near the Mexico border.Of Uvalde’s about 16,000 residents, nearly 80 per cent are Hispanic or Latino, according to US census data.“We are a small community and we need your prayers to get us through this,” Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, told reporters, his voice quaking with emotion.


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