Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords visits Uvalde for first time since Robb Elementary shooting

Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence put together a Uvalde report following the shooting.

There was a renewed push for change in Uvalde on Monday when former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords visited Robb Elementary for the first time since the massacre on May 24, 2022, took the lives of 21 people.

“Superman!” Gabby Giffords said.

With hero teacher Irma Garcia’s photo smiling back at her, Giffords took in the 21 crosses outside of Robb Elementary for the first time.

”Sandy Hook the first one, and this one the last one. It seems appropriate,” Sandy Phillips said while holding onto Giffords. Phillips lost her daughter, Jessica Ghawi, in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting in 2012.

Giffords has been an advocate for gun law changes since she was the victim of gun violence in 2011. She was diagnosed with aphasia after suffering a gunshot to the head during a constituents meeting.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Aphasia is a disorder that affects how you communicate. It can impact your speech, as well as the way you write and understand both spoken and written language.”

“I was honored to visit Uvalde today and meet with so many survivors and community members. Losing a loved one to gun violence, especially a child, causes unimaginable grief. The Uvalde community needs our help and support. I met many survivors today, whose lives, like my own, were irrevocably changed after being shot. We won’t ever forget the 19 students and two educators who were killed that day and those who survived. We stand with the Uvalde community now and always.”

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

The former congresswoman then co-founded Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013.

“So sad, so sad,” Giffords said.

Mike McLively, a policy director with Giffords, has been to Uvalde several times. During those visits, McLively has met with families and the community to discuss what their needs are after the tragedy, hoping to bridge gaps.

“There’s still a great need for community services, for spaces for kids to get out and play, mental health, behavioral health services,” McLively said.

Their organization put together a report titled “The Uvalde Report: A Path Forward for a Community—and Nation—Struggling to Heal.”

The report focuses on changes, like improving gun laws, creating trauma-informed schools, and expanding community-based services for kids and adults.

Diane Barrientos, who is originally from Uvalde, said the need for change in her hometown is clear.

“You think of trauma and how the impact it’s going to impact these children, these families. The domino effect, people losing their jobs, housing, the resources need to come now,” Barrientos said.

They believe what happened here can be a catalyst for change and an example for what should be done when it comes to supporting a community ripped apart by a mass shooting.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, let’s get ‘er done,” Giffords said.

“The administration just created the first Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and one of the things they’re looking at is how the federal government can respond to mass shootings like we saw here in Uvalde. And I think a lot of what the communities telling us will be fed and told to the administration when they’re looking at the response and hopefully really support families in a much more comprehensive way then we’ve been doing,” McLively said.

Following her visit to Robb Elementary and the Uvalde town square, Giffords met privately with members of the Uvalde community as well as victims’ families to continue the conversation about gun violence prevention.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.