President Joe Biden has said that he is considering demolishing the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 young children and two teachers were shot and killed last week in one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
State Senator Roland Gutierrez told KSAT that the president promised to provide federal resources to potentially raze Robb Elementary School and build a new campus in the community left heartbroken by the senseless massacre.
Joe Biden suggests demolishing Uvalde school after mass shooting: ‘Raze that school, build a new one’
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was demolished after 20 students aged six and seven years old and six staff members were shot and killed by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza back in 2012.
The school district for Columbine High School in Colorado was also considering tearing down the building saying that the site had become “a macabre source of inspiration and motivation” for people with “a morbid fascination” for the 1999 mass shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead.
Hundreds of people had sought to enter the campus in the years after the attack, including 18-year-old Sol Pais who travelled to Colorado from her home in Florida armed with a shotgun and ammunition in 2019, sending the school into lockdown.
The Republican, who relaxed gun laws even further in the state last year, has come under fire in the aftermath of the shooting as pressure is building on lawmakers to introduce gun reform legislation and put an end to the surge in mass shootings devastating communities across the country.
While Mr Abbott cancelled his in-person speech at the NRA conference over the weekend, he still sent a pre-recorded message to the crowd where he continued to claim that gun laws don’t stop “madmen” from carrying out shootings.
Justice Department to probe law enforcement response
Still, in the most concrete sign of a federal government response to the Uvalde massacre last Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would review the law enforcement response during the killings at Robb Elementary School. CNN has reported that 19 law enforcement officers stood outside the classroom where the children died for 50 minutes waiting for room keys and tactical equipment. The revelations raised the agonizing possibilities that these departures from active shooter protocols could have cost lives.
On the legislative front, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he sensed a “different feeling” among GOP colleagues given the horror of the atrocity against young children in Texas. But he cautioned any eventual agreement will be limited.
And on the same show, Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas underscored the limited opening for compromise in the GOP position. He rejected proposals such as universal background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws to keep guns away from people seen as a threat and prohibitions on people under the age of 21 buying powerful semi-automatic rifles. Like many Republicans, he called for enforcing school security. The level of weaponry, training and security needed would cost many millions of dollars in an often underfunded public education system and require kids to spend their formative years effectively under heavy guard. Crenshaw’s arguments were symptomatic of the position that any gun control measures would be effectively un-American — an outlook that weighs heavily against any effective action in Congress.
The cost of this absolutist philosophical stance, which leads to the widespread availability of deadly weapons and regular mass killings, was painfully revealed in a heart-rending interview conducted by CNN’s Dana Bash with Adrian Alonzo, who spent all day Tuesday trying to find his niece, Ellie Garcia, only to discover she was among those who perished.
“By far the worst day of my life. And I’ll never forget that day. I can replay those hours so vividly in my mind and it’s just etched in my mind,” Alonzo said.
Ellie would have turned 10 next Saturday.
Trump pivots from mourning to politics
While the President’s power may be limited, he did his emotional duty and more Sunday, spending three hours with bereaved families on Sunday afternoon. At one point, with the first lady by his side, he poignantly embraced Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary School, next to a growing pile of flowers at an impromptu memorial.
Ex-President Donald Trump made no such journey, choosing instead to cement his standing with GOP base voters at a time when his total control over his own movement is being questioned ahead of a possible 2024 White House campaign.
Trump appeared at the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action’s annual leadership forum in Houston on Friday, less than 300 miles away from Uvalde, and read out the names of each of the children and teachers massacred.
“Each precious young soul that was taken is an incomprehensible loss,” Trump said, but quickly pivoted to politics, lashing out at Biden and other Democrats for raising the issue of gun safety overhauls after massacres in Texas and earlier this month in Buffalo, New York, both of which were conducted by 18-year-olds with legally bought semi-automatic weapons.
He argued that it was not fair for law-abiding gun owners to be deprived of such weapons because of the actions of “sick and demonic” attackers. He proposed more guns in schools to keep kids safe and for the turning of school buildings into fortresses.
The notion that even horrific carnage like that which unfolded last week in Texas must never diminish the magnitude of the freedom of Americans to own high-powered weapons of war resonates in red, more rural states usually represented by Republicans, where Trump remains highly popular. It also helps explains why even those GOP senators who might be willing to take modest steps to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of killers find it such a tough vote and why it’s hard to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to pass major legislation — a function of Senate rules that even some moderate Democrats are not willing to entertain changing.
“Look, I have opposed a ban, you know, fairly recently. I think I’m open to a ban now. It’s going to depend on what it looks like because there’s a lot of nuances on what constitutes, you know, certain things,” Kinzinger told CNN’s Bash on “State of the Union” when asked if he still opposed “a ban on the kind of assault weapons that were used in the shooting.”
Kinzinger, however, is hardly a representative sample of the GOP since he has freed himself from party orthodoxy by breaking with Trump — including over his election fraud lies. He has decided not to run for reelection in the fall and is therefore no longer beholden to GOP activists who would consider his comment as heresy.
But the argument that any gun restrictions would unacceptably infringe the rights of law-abiding gun owners is inherently a political one. While the Constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, it does not state that Americans have the right to have any weapon of their choice, especially those that fire at a rate of lethality that the founders could never have imagined. And the campaign against tightening gun laws prioritizes the rights of gun owners over those of innocent victims, like those in Texas who last week had the right to life destroyed in an instant.
So entrenched are these positions that the sense of helplessness in the face of repeated massacres seems unlikely to dissipate quickly. It’s easy to imagine Biden and the first lady appearing at yet another vigil for victims of mass carnage soon. For the President, doing “something” might be impossible.
Biden says pain ‘palpable’ in Uvalde as memorial services for shooting victims to begin
The first memorial services for the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting at their elementary school in Uvalde began on Monday, a day after Joe Biden visited the small south Texas city and was urged by residents to take action on gun safety laws.
Asked by a reporter on the south lawn outside the White House whether he felt more motivated to act on guns now, Biden said: “I’ve been pretty motivated all along. The folks who were victimized, their families…the pain is palpable. I think a lot of it is unnecessary. I’m going to continue to push.”
Republicans in the US Senate have blocked meaningful federal legislation on gun control for many years. Biden said he had not had been negotiating with Republicans in the current round of talks underway on Capitol Hill, but he added that: “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
US vice-president Kamala Harris called on Saturday for a US assault rifle ban, as she attended the final funeral for victims killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, just over two weeks ago, where an assault rifle was used in a racist attack at a supermarket in a majority Black neighborhood.
In Uvalde, relatives, school mates and friends of Amerie Jo Garza, who turned 10 on 10 May, just two weeks before she was gunned down, will gather on Monday at the funeral home directly across the street from Robb elementary school where the massacre happened last Tuesday.
Terrified children had fled to the Hillcrest Memorial funeral home a few yards away as the gunman wreaked carnage at the school, also killing two teachers, and now Amerie Jo and more of the dead are there in caskets, waiting to be laid to rest in the town devastated by a senseless atrocity.
Amerie Jo Garza will be buried on Tuesday, one week after the shooting, with a service at the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Uvalde, where the US president and first lady Jill Biden attended a service during their visit on Sunday, before meeting with bereaved families, survivors and first responders.
Also on Monday, at another funeral home, there is a wake for Maite Rodriguez, also 10, with her funeral also scheduled for Tuesday. Her obituary said she dreamt of becoming a marine biologist, with a picture of a dolphin and the girl’s smiling face.
Even as the city is in shock, parents are demanding safety for their children from gun violence – shouting out as much to Biden and Texas governor Greg Abbott on Sunday – but asking more agonizing questions about why armed police waited for more than an hour outside the classroom where the gunman was killing so many.
One onlooker during Biden’s visit to Uvalde shouted out: “Our children do not deserve this”, another called out “do something”, to which he responded “We will” in his only public comments on Sunday.
Amerie Jo’s family described her as a “sassy little diva”. Her father, Alfred Garza, criticized inaction on gun safety laws, which allowed an 18-year-old local man legally to buy assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition that he used to perpetrate the killings last week.
“We should have more restrictions, especially if these kids [the gunmen] are not in their right state of mind and all they want to do is just hurt people, especially innocent children going to school,” Garza said.
As well as demands for gun safety, agonized questions continue to pile up over why local armed police waited for more than an hour outside the classroom where the teenage gunman was killing so many, seemingly violating state policy.
Garza said his daughter had received a cellphone for her birthday and used it to dial the 911 emergency number as the shooting unfolded in her classroom. But the series of calls made by children and adults at the school were in vain.
The US Department of Justice is now going to review the police response. Federal agents from border patrol entered the classroom and shot dead the gunman, Salvador Ramos, an estimated 80 minutes after he entered the school and locked himself inside with his victims.
Parent Javier Cazares had raced to Robb elementary, his daughter’s school, when he heard there was a shooting, leaving his truck running with the door open as he ran into the school yard. He is a gun owner but, in his rush in the emergency, he didn’t have it with him.
He recounted how he spent the next 35 to 45 excruciating minutes scanning the children fleeing school for his nine-year-old “firecracker” daughter Jacklyn.
All the while, he yearned to run in himself – and grew increasingly agitated, along with other parents, that the police weren’t doing more to stop the gunman.
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs,”’ said Cazares, an Army veteran. “We were ready to go to work and rush in.”
Uvalde is a predominantly Latino community that sits among vegetable fields halfway between San Antonio and the US-Mexico border.
The tragedy represents the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in December, 2012, when 26 people were killed at the elementary school.