Families of Robb Elementary School victims and survivors declared a “war against guns” and condemned the state’s top Republicans by name for protecting gun rights after yet another mass shooting.
A group of parents, relatives and supporters spoke on Wednesday in Uvalde to address the relaxed gun laws in Texas, which they believe helped lead to the May 24 massacre that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
The speakers said they have repeatedly asked for Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to enact stricter gun laws, like creating red flag laws, requiring universal background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. The Uvalde gunman had just turned 18 years old when he purchased two rifles — legally — from a sports outfitter.
So far, Abbott has refused to call a special session and has instead vowed to focus on mental health, however, he slashed nearly $211 million from mental health funding this year alone.
On Wednesday, the speakers said their demands are “simple.”
Jacinto Cazares, the father of “Jackie,” who died on the way to the hospital, said he has vowed to fight for his daughter, her friends and future survivors.
“I have a big fight ahead of me. It’s simple, it’s not much to ask,” he said when addressing tougher gun laws. “I don’t know what it is, money? I don’t know what it’s going to take.”
Berlinda Arreola said her granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza died a hero, as she called 911 for help inside the classroom.
“It cost her her life to make that call,” she said.
Arreola said politicians hide behind mental health and the Constitution, even though it was written before today’s weapons of combat were made easily available.
“Don’t wait until it happens again,” she said. “Don’t wait until it happens to you to make that change.”
Marissa Lozano, a sister of teacher Irma Garcia, recalled the “unimaginable and absolutely devastating” day that she relives in her head daily. Garcia’s husband, Joe, died just days later from a heart attack.
Since then, she said, “not a single effort was made to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Families of Uvalde victims spoke before Friday’s gubernatorial debate in the Rio Grande Valley, where they also criticized Abbott.
Some of the parents who spoke at that news conference were also at Wednesday’s event, including Jerry and Veronica Mata, the parents of Tess; and Kimberly Rubio, the mother of Alexandria (Lexi).
Arnulfo Reyes, a teacher who was shot by the gunman, and parents of survivors in the Santa Fe shooting also spoke on Wednesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s office released a statement in response to the event:
“Governor Abbott and First Lady Abbott join all Texans in mourning every single innocent life lost that tragic day, and we pray for the families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. Governor Abbott visited Uvalde over several weeks to meet individually with over 30 victims’ families to provide direct assistance, and every month since the tragedy to ensure they are receiving all the resources and support needed to heal.
This year, federal courts have made clear that the Second Amendment prohibits raising the age to buy a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. California passed a law raising the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles, such as AR-15s, from 18 to 21. The California federal court of appeals, which is the country’s most liberal court of appeals, ruled that such a law is unconstitutional. A month later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York gun ban, and in doing so established a new standard by which Second Amendment cases are evaluated. Two months ago, a Texas federal court—following the new Supreme Court standard—struck down a law that restricted gun rights for adults 18-21. Governor Abbott continues to work on solutions focused on the root of the problem: mental health.”
You can hear the families’ comments in the video player above.