Houstonians join mourners across the country trying to process the mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children dead.
At a downtown vigil the night of the shooting, people gathered to honor the victims and demand change, including activists, children and politicians like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
“This is an outcry, I can’t take it anymore. I’ve been in the United States Congress for more than two decades. I can’t take it anymore. We need to pass a universal background check now,” said Jackson Lee, who broke into tears while talking. “We need to pass the red flag law, federal, you must do something.”
While the group of people was diverse, they all shared one common message emphasizing the urgency when it comes to gun safety legislation, saying that school shootings are everyone’s problem. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reflected on the tragic news and an unsettling trend.
“There are too many guns on the street,” Turner said. “More children are dying because of gun violence, more so than COVID-19. I want you to think about that.”
“This is not Democrat, this is not Republican…this is our babies,” Kathy Blueford-Daniels, a Houston ISD trustee said. “And y’all ought to be mad as hell!”
In addition to calling for renewed dialogue about gun access, the group called on the NRA to cancel its annual meeting, which is set to take place Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Big names in politics, including Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott are set to speak at the event.
Meanwhile, notable Houstonians like Trae Tha Truth are stepping up to help.
The Houston rapper posted on Instagram last night asking people to help connect him to some of the victims’ families, wanting to assist them with funeral expenses.
A town in shock
Ulvade is known for football and being the birthplace of actor Matthew McCaugnehey. The news of the shooting, affected almost everyone in the small town of 15,000 just outside of San Antonio. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 80% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. And about 1 in 5 lives below the poverty line.
Enough with thoughts and prayers
Police say the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, who lived in Uvalde, purchased the gun used to slaughter the children on his 18th birthday. He was also armed with 375 rounds of ammunition. Immediately, calls went out for gun control. And just as quickly, local Republicans moved to squelch the possibility of gun control measures.
Speaking shortly after the shooting, President Joe Biden vowed to push for stricter gun laws.
“We as a nation have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden said.
But Texas Republicans made it clear that any kind of gun restriction in response to the tragedy was off the table.
“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said. “That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”
In an appearance on the far-right television network Newsmax, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly dismissed the notion of enacting restrictions on firearms — reasoning that shooters wouldn’t follow the law anyway.
“I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens because it’s not going to be the last time,” Paxton said.
Been here before
In the wake of mass shootings at Santa Fe High School in 2018 and a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, Texas Republicans vowed to take steps to prevent similar killing sprees in the future and passed laws that cover issues like identifying potentially dangerous students, training school employees to deal with emergencies and giving teachers more access to guns.
But in gun-friendly Texas, any laws restricting access to firearms have been a nonstarter. Instead, state legislators have expanded access to firearms — including with a law allowing residents to carry guns without a permit.
NRA in Houston
Gov. Greg Abbott, Cruz and former President Donald Trump are scheduled to talk in Houston on Friday at the National Rifle Association’s 2022 annual meeting. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in this year’s gubernatorial race, called on Abbott to skip the convention and tell the NRA to take the convention elsewhere.
“Governor Abbott, if you have any decency, you will immediately withdraw from this weekend’s NRA convention and urge them to hold it anywhere but Texas,” O’Rourke tweeted.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lawmakers weigh in
Words of pain, grief and heartbreak are pouring in from Texas leaders who learned the devastating news of 19 young students and a teacher losing their lives in a mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school.
“I represented Uvalde in Congress for 6 years. I love this community. The loss of 14 kids and 1 teacher is unthinkable. I cannot begin to comprehend the immense grief their families are experiencing. This sh*t has got to stop. We’ve failed again. Just over a week ago it was a supermarket in Buffalo. Today, it’s an elementary school in Uvalde. Tomorrow or next week, it’s somewhere else. There is no singular cause or fix to this problem, but let’s also not pretend that there is nothing to be done. If the GOP is going to actually be the pro-life, pro-second amendment, pro-law enforcement party, then it is on us to put forth the best ideas on preventing mass murders. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. What we really need is solutions.” – Former TX Rep. Will Hurd
“I am heartbroken and troubled to learn about today’s tragic event at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that took the lives of 14 innocent children and one teacher and left dozens of children injured. How many more children must lose their lives from senseless gun violence?” – Mayor Sylvester Turner
“In the coming hours, we will begin to see the faces of more children whose lives have been stolen by yet another senseless act of gun violence in Texas. How much longer will we be willing to put the interests of the gun lobby over the lives of innocent people?” – Lina Hidalgo
“Our hearts ache as we share in the grief and pain of the Uvalde community. Robb Elementary children, teachers, staff, and families experienced what no one should, let alone at a place we trust is safe for our children. The safety of our students is our foremost priority. The Houston ISD Police Department is evaluating safety measures on our campuses and will adjust accordingly. I want to assure the HISD community that we are taking this very seriously. HISD Police have reached out to the Houston Police Department and there are no active threats currently. I will hold my children a little tighter when I see them as I’m sure many of you will as well. Let us hold the families of those who have lost loved ones just as tightly in our thoughts and send them the strength to get through this unimaginable pain.” – HISD Superintendent Millard House, III