AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Families from Uvalde on Tuesday pleaded with new urgency for tougher gun laws in the wake of a series of mass shootings in California, including the nation’s deadliest act of gun violence since last year’s attack at a Texas elementary school.
“People are dying every day, this shouldn’t be happening,” said Veronica Mata, whose 10-year-old daughter, Tess, was among those killed in the May attack at Robb Elementary School.
The three shootings in California, which have claimed the lives of at least 24 people since last week, occurred as the Texas Legislature is getting back to work for the first time since the Uvalde massacre. Democrats have fielded dozens of proposals that would tighten Texas gun laws, but most stand little chance of advancing in the face of a commanding 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 inside the Texas Capitol. Some families have said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who did not mention the Uvalde shooting while being sworn into a third term during his inaugural address last week, privately told them he does not support tougher restrictions.
No Republican lawmakers joined Democrats who stood with victims’ families and gun control advocates in a news conference outside the Senate floor. Some Republican senators walked past on their way out of the chamber.
The proposals sought by Uvalde parents include increasing the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles like the one used in the May attack from 18 to 21 — the state’s current age limit to buy a handgun. Another would open avenues for families to sue officers who don’t do their duty. An investigative report by state lawmakers last summer found that nearly 400 officers waited in a hallway and outside more than an hour to breach the classroom where the gunman was shooting.
Slain Uvalde teacher Irma Garcia was shot 11 times from her head to her legs with an AR-15-style rife, her sister, Marisol Lozano, said. She recalled seeing her sister’s face and hands reconstructed for the funeral to hide the bullet wounds. Garcia’s husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack shortly after the shooting.
“I wonder if it had been 21 abortions being performed in those classrooms, if our elected officials would step in and do the right thing?” Lozano said, referencing restrictions that state lawmakers have enacted over the years, including one of the strictest abortion bans in the U.S.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, said earlier this month that he knew “difficult discussions” were coming on gun legislation. But he later told reporters he did not believe the the bills would find support in the state’s Republican-controlled chamber.
Javier Cazares, the father of 9-year-old Uvalde victim Jacklyn Cazares, said Phelan privately told families that he and his constituents did not support the tougher gun laws the families were backing.
“Our blood boiled, because what can you do?” Cazares, speaking in Spanish, told the Associated Press.