The second US mass shooting in 10 days, which left 18 young children and three adults dead at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, led to an outpouring of disbelief and potent rage at America’s persistent failure to tackle its epidemic of gun violence.
Tuesday’s horrifying attack in Uvalde, a small, largely Hispanic community outside San Antonio, came just 10 days after the events in Buffalo, New York. There 10 grocery shoppers, most of them African American, were gunned down in a supermarket.
The horror of two large-scale gun tragedies collided just a few months before the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. That assault in December 2012 took the lives of 20 six- and seven-year-olds as well as six school employees.
Sandy Hook Promise, the advocacy group to end gun violence that was set up by families of the school victims, said on Tuesday that they were “devastated about reports that multiple people are dead, including children [in Texas]. Our hearts are with the families and community as this tragic story unfolds.”
Chris Murphy, the Democratic US senator from Connecticut who took his seat in Congress a month after the Sandy Hook shooting, expressed on Twitter the visceral emotions rippling through the country as news spread of the disaster. “Oh my god. I’m shaking. I’m just shaking all over. With fear. With anger. With resolve,” he wrote.
In a searing speech from the floor of the Senate just hours after the Texas shooting happened, Murphy vented 10 years of pent-up outrage at the lack of action on the part of his congressional colleagues despite the litany of violent gun deaths. “What are we doing?” he asked.
Days after Buffalo, the country faces yet another Sandy Hook, he said, and turned the spotlight directly on his peers in the US senate, whom he accused of inaction in the face of the carnage. “There are more mass shootings than days in the year. Our kids are living in fear. This happens nowhere else but here in the United States of America and it is a choice, it is our choice to let it continue.”
A similar sense of frustration and outrage was conveyed on CNN by Charles Ramsey, former police commissioner in Philadelphia. “This is something we should not even be talking about, this is absolutely crazy,” he said.
“And what is crazy about it is that nothing will be done about it. When is this going to end? At some point in time we all have to say that’s enough. It’s enough and it all has to end. We have to save our kids, because this is what’s happening every single day in our cities.”
The demands for action were echoed at the highest levels when Joe Biden, who ordered the White House flag to be flown at half mast, addressed the nation in a somber speech after returning for from a five-day trip to Asia that was bookended by tragedy.
“I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this, again. Another massacre,” he began, before taking a harsh tone in calling for “common sense” gun legislation.
“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” he said. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?”
“It is time to turn this pain to the action,” he added.
Urgent calls to break the political impasse continued to pour in throughout the day.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, former president Barack Obama said that “it’s long past time for action” on gun violence in the US. “We’re also angry for them. Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook– and ten days after Buffalo – our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies,” he said.
First Lady Jill Biden, herself a teacher, tweeted, “Lord, enough. Little children and their teacher. Stunned. Angry. Heartbroken.”
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was a victim of a mass shooting in 2011, said she is “horrified” at inaction surrounding gun violence in the US.
“How many more children will be killed by guns? How many young lives cut short, families shattered, communities traumatized because our leaders refuse to act on gun violence?” Giffords said. “Gun violence is a uniquely American problem – and it is now the leading cause of death for American children.
Shannon Watts, a gun control advocate with Everytown for Gun Safety, said caustically that Donald Trump will be addressing a conference held by National Rifle Association (NRA) in Houston, Texas, on Friday.
The event will be strictly gun-controlled in ways the NRA and Trump routinely oppose for any other setting. “Guns won’t be allowed in spaces where Donald Trump and NRA executives are speaking,” Watts said, “because someone might try to kill them.”
Former congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida said the shooting shows how little has changed since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school attack in her home state in 2018.
“Our elected leaders have been more interested in listening to the gun lobby than protecting our children – and until that changes, we will continue to see devastating incident after devastating incident.”
Authorities are still working to identify the many young victims. Hal Harrell, the superintendent of the Uvalde consolidated independent school district, said that Robb elementary school called for support as the school and community grieved.
“My heart is broken today,” Harrell said. “We’re a small community and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.”
Agencies contributed reporting
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