Families from Uvalde on Tuesday pleaded for a new urgency for tougher gun laws after a spate of mass shootings in California, including the deadliest gun violence in the country since the attack on a Texas elementary school last year.
“People are dying every day, it shouldn’t be happening,” said Veronica Mata, whose 10-year-old daughter Tess was killed in the attack on Robb Elementary School in May.
The three shootings in California, which have claimed at least 24 lives since last week, came as the Texas legislature went back to work for the first time since the Uvalde massacre. Democrats have tabled dozens of proposals that would tighten Texas gun laws, but most stand little chance of moving forward in the face of a overwhelming GOP majority.
Still, several parents and relatives of the 19 children and two teachers killed in Uvalde traveled more than three hours Tuesday to renew their calls at the Texas Capitol. Some families said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made no mention of the Uvalde shooting when he was sworn in for a third term in his inaugural speech last week, privately told them he does not support tighter restrictions.
No Republican lawmaker joined Democrats in standing with the families of victims and gun control advocates at a press conference before the Senate. A few Republican senators passed on their way out of the chamber.
Uvalde’s parents’ proposals include raising the age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles like those used in the May raid from 18 to 21 – the state’s current age limit for purchasing a handgun. Another would open up avenues for families to sue officers who are not doing their duty. Last summer, an investigative report by state lawmakers found that nearly 400 officers waited in a hallway and outside for more than an hour to break into the classroom where the shooter fired.
Slain Uvalde teacher Irma Garcia was shot 11 times from head to legs with an AR-15 rifle, her sister Marisol Lozano said. She recalled seeing her sister’s face and hands reconstructed for the funeral to hide the gunshot wounds. Garcia’s husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack shortly after the shooting.
“I wonder if 21 abortions were performed in these classrooms, if our elected officials would step in and do the right thing?” Lozano said, referring to restrictions state legislatures have enacted over the years, including one of the most stringent abortion bans in the USA
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, said earlier this month he knew “difficult discussions” about gun legislation were ahead. However, he later told reporters he didn’t think the bills would gain support in the state’s Republican-controlled chamber.
Javier Cazares, the father of 9-year-old Uvalde victim Jacklyn Cazares, said Phelan privately informed families that he and his constituents did not support tougher gun laws, which the families supported.
“Our blood was boiling because what can you do?” Cazares spoke to the Associated Press in Spanish.