On Saturday, the families of the victims of the Uvalde mass shooting staged a protest outside Greg Abbott’s home, 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 in front of the governor’s mansion in downtown Austin at around 5.15am that morning, holding up photos of their loved ones lost in the May 24 massacre.
The crowd shouted the names of the 19 students, aged 9 to 11, and the two heroic teachers killed in the shooting at a megaphone. Others also made the heartbreaking sound of their children’s voices laughing happily and playing on recordings made before their murders.
The demonstration comes as family members and the wider Uvalde community are becoming increasingly frustrated by the governor’s inability to take meaningful action more than three months after the massacre.
On May 24, 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos entered Robb Primary School in Uvalde armed with an AR-15 and killed 21 innocent students and staff.
The killer legally purchased the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack a few days earlier, thanks to Texas’ lax gun laws.
The previous year, Ramos, 17, had asked family members to help him buy a firearm because he was a minor and therefore couldn’t do it. They refused.
But, on May 16, Ramos turned 18 and thus was able to legally purchase his firearms in the state of Texas.
Over the next week, he bought two semi-automatic rifles from state gun shops and 375 cartridges.
Eight days after his 18th birthday, he used one of the firearms to carry out one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
After the massacre, requests increased to raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, which could have prevented the Uvalde massacre.
Families, Uvalde City Council, and state lawmakers have urged Mr. Abbott to convene 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 will be re-elected in November – has shown no willingness to do so.
Saturday’s demonstration was organized with the March for Our Lives Weapons Reform Group, set up by students who survived in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Hundreds of protesters joined the Uvalde families outside the governor’s home and then on the steps of the state capital in Austin, hearing the devastating stories of those who had lost loved ones to gun violence.
Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah died in the May 24 massacre, yelled into a megaphone to Mr. Abbott to hear that the tapes are “all we have left” of their children.
“These are the voices of our children!” He said. “This is all we have left because you don’t give a damn!”
“The age has to 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 may be next.
“Our kids are going back to school and asking, ‘Will I be next?'” She said.
Maggie Mireles Thomas, the sister of teacher Eva Mireles who was killed in Robb’s elementary school, said her brother had no chance against the man armed with an AR-15.
“My sister leaves her only child, who has to go on without her,” she said.
“Eva was strong. She could have taken [the shooter] â € • but not with this weapon.
Protesters have called for intervention from the governor and promised that – if he continues to ignore them – they will instead make their voices heard at the polls.
Asked if the governor supports raising the minimum age, his office instead directed the HuffPost reporter about his efforts for school safety and mental health.
“As Governor Abbott 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 it heals,” said the spokesman.
“Other announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks while the legislator deliberates the proposed solutions”.
Texas has some of the most lax gun laws in all of America, and since taking office, Mr. Abbott has loosened them even further.
Last year he signed a new law that allows Texans to carry weapons without a license. At the signing ceremony, he was joined 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 maker of the gun used in the attack.
Civil rights attorney Charles Bonner said on Monday he intends to sue anyone with responsibility for the May 24 massacre, including the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, arms manufacturer Daniel Defense who used the AR- 15 to kill the 21 victims and the Oasis Outback gun shop where Ramos was able to legally purchase it.
It will also include all the different law enforcement agencies that responded to the mass shooting scene, including the Public Security Department, the Uvalde School Police, and the Uvalde City Police.
The massive lawsuit – which will also involve weapons security organization Everytown – is expected to be filed in September after the U.S. Department of Justice releases the results of its investigation into the massacre.
Several separate probes on bankruptcies were launched that day.
Last month, the Texas House committee investigating the massacre released its bombshell report in which it criticized law enforcement’s “loose approach” and cited the failings of nearly all the authorities involved that day.
The Texas House committee’s 77-page report revealed that as many as 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 US border patrols, 91 state police officers, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s officers and five Uvalde school police officers.
The remainder were Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers, U.S. marshals, and police officers who responded from neighboring counties.
In the overwhelming report, the law enforcement response was described as “chaos” in which there was no clear leadership and agents on the scene “did not prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety. “.
“There was an overall apathetic approach from law enforcement on the scene. For many, this is due to the fact that they have been provided and have relied on inaccurate information. For others, they had enough information to know better, “the report said.
As a result, a good 77 minutes have passed since Ramos entered the school at 11:33 am and began shooting innocent victims the moment an elite border patrol unit finally broke into the classroom and shot to death at 12:50.
The sensational surveillance footage shows dozens of armed officers standing in the corridors outside the courtroom not acting.
The Texas House committee report said it was “plausible” that the long delay in the action cost the lives of some of the bleeding victims inside the room.
A teacher died of injuries sustained in an ambulance while three children died after reaching the hospital.
To date, only two law enforcement officers are known to have faced disciplinary action for the botched response from law enforcement.
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the on-site commander of the incident, took much of the blame for not sending law enforcement to class to confront the gunman.
He was eventually fired from his role on Wednesday.
In July, Uvalde Police Acting Chief Lieutenant Mariano Pargas was also suspended after the Texas House committee report found that the department had ignored its active shooting training that day..
The Uvalde City Council also announced its own investigation into each of the 25 officers from the Uvalde Police Department who responded to the shooting.
The city council investigation is expected to take about two months.