Families of Uvalde mass shooting victims protested outside Greg Abbott’s home on Saturday, calling on the Texas governor to raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.
Grieving parents, siblings and other family members gathered outside the governor’s mansion in downtown Austin around 5:15 a.m. that morning, holding up photos of loved ones lost in the May 24 massacre.
The crowd chanted the names of the 19 students, aged nine to 11, and two heroic teachers who were killed in the bullhorn shooting. Others also released the chilling sound of their children’s voices happily laughing and playing on recordings made before they were killed.
The rally comes as family members and the wider Uvalde community grow increasingly frustrated with the governor’s failure to take meaningful action more than three months after the massacre.
On May 24, 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde armed with an AR-15 and murdered 21 innocent students and staff members.
The killer legally bought the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack days earlier – thanks to Texas’ lax gun laws.
The previous year, 17-year-old Ramos had asked family members to help him buy a firearm because he was a minor and thus unable to do so. They refused.
But on May 16, Ramos turned 18 and was able to legally purchase his own firearms in the state of Texas.
The following week, he purchased two semi-automatic rifles from gun stores in the state as well as 375 rounds of ammunition.
Eight days after his 18th birthday, he used one of the firearms to carry out one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
In the wake of the massacre, calls are mounting to raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 – something that could have prevented the Uvalde massacre.
Families, the Uvalde City Council and state lawmakers have urged Mr. Abbott to call a special session of the state legislature where new gun laws can be considered.
But three months after the shooting, Mr Abbott – a longtime NRA ally who is running for re-election in November – has shown no willingness to do so.
Saturday’s rally was organized with the gun reform group March for Our Lives — which was founded by student survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Hundreds of protesters joined Uvalde families outside the governor’s mansion and then on the capitol steps in Austin, listening to the devastating stories of those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Brett Cross, whose son Uzziah died in the May 24 massacre, called for Mr Abbott to hear that the recordings are “all we have left” of their children.
“These are the voices of our children!” he said. “That’s all we have left because you don’t give a damn!”
“The age should be raised to 21. Our children would still be alive,” he told HuffPost.
Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jackie was killed in the massacre, said the surviving children now fear they could be next.
“Our kids go back to school and ask, ‘Am I going to be next?’ he said.
Maggie Mireles Thomas, the sister of teacher Eva Mireles who was killed at Robb Elementary, said her brother didn’t stand a chance against the gunman with an AR-15.
“My sister leaves behind her only child, who has to go on without her,” he said.
“Eva was strong. He could take [the shooter] â€• but not with this weapon.’
The protesters demanded action from the governor and promised that – if he continues to ignore them – they will make their voices heard at the ballot box.
When asked if the governor supports raising the minimum age, his office pointed to HuffPost’s efforts on school safety and mental health.
“As Governor Abbott has said from day one, all options remain on the table as he continues to work with state and local leaders to prevent future tragedies and deploy all available resources to support the Uvalde community as they heal,” he said. the representative.
“More announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks as the Legislature considers proposed solutions.”
Texas has some of the laxest gun laws in all of America and, since taking office, Mr. Abbott has relaxed them further.
Last year, he signed a new law allowing Texans to carry handguns without a permit. At the signing ceremony, he was flanked by NRA officials.
This week, lawyers representing the victims’ families also announced plans to file a $27 billion class-action lawsuit against several law enforcement agencies, the school district and the manufacturer of the gun used in the attack.
Civil rights attorney Charles Boehner said Monday he plans to sue anyone with any responsibility for the May 24 massacre, including the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, the gunsmith Daniel Defense who used the AR-15 to kill the 21 victims and the Oasis weapon shop. Out where Ramos was able to buy it legally.
It will also feature all the different law enforcement agencies that responded to the scene of the mass shooting, including the Department of Public Safety, Uvalde School Police and Uvalde City Police.
The massive lawsuit – which will also include the gun safety organization Everytown – is expected to be filed in September after the US Department of Justice releases the findings of its investigation into the massacre.
Several separate investigations have been launched into the failures that day.
Last month, the Texas House committee that investigated the massacre released its bombshell report, criticizing the “flawed approach” of law enforcement and citing failures by nearly all the authorities involved that day.
The 77-page report by the Texas House committee revealed that 376 law enforcement officers descended on Robb Elementary School to respond to what became the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Among them were 149 U.S. Border Patrol agents, 91 state troopers, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s deputies and five Uvalde school police officers.
The rest were federal Drug Enforcement Administration officers, U.S. Marshals and police officers who responded from neighboring counties.
In the damning report, the law enforcement response was described as “chaos”, where there was no clear leadership and officers on the scene “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety”.
“There was a general nonchalant approach by law enforcement at the scene. For many, this was because they were given and relied on inaccurate information. For others, they had enough information to know better,” the report says.
As a result, a staggering 77 minutes passed from the time Ramos entered the school at 11.33am. and began shooting innocent victims until an elite Border Patrol unit finally burst into the classroom and shot him dead at 12.50pm.
Damning surveillance footage shows dozens of armed officers standing in the hallways outside the classroom and taking no action.
The Texas House committee’s report said it was “plausible” that the long delay in taking action cost the lives of some of the bleeding victims in the room.
A teacher died of her injuries in an ambulance, while three children died after reaching hospital.
To date, only two law enforcement officers are known to have faced disciplinary action related to the botched law enforcement response.
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the incident commander, has shouldered much of the blame for failing to send officers into the classroom to confront the gunman.
He was finally fired from his role on Wednesday.
In July, Uvalde Deputy Police Chief Lt. Mariano Pargas was also fired after the Texas commission’s report found the department ignored its own active shooter training that day..
The Uvalde City Council also announced its own investigation into each of the 25 Uvalde police officers who responded to the shooting.
The city council’s investigation is expected to take about two months.