A gunman opened fire inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday, 24th May, killing over 19 children and 2 teachers. Moreover, 17 people were injured and taken to hospital on buses and ambulances. Texas school shooting lasted for 40 minutes, after which the Border Patrol killed the suspected shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos. The suspect also shot and killed her grandmother before beginning the massacre, according to reports. He was wearing body armour and carrying an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, both of which are readily available in the US market. The mass shooting again sparked debate regarding the US gun laws, which the government had failed to reform after repeated attempts.
Texas School Shooting Reignites Calls to Restrict Guns in the US
Leaders from all over the world, including Pope Francis, condemned the tragedy, calling US politicians to enforce stricter gun laws. Anybody can buy a gun in the US in less than 1 hour. Hundreds of stores sell guns after a brief background check. Buyers fill out a form by BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). It requires personal information such as name, race, address, citizenship, birthplace, and social security number, which is tagged as “optional”. It also asks questions like if the buyer is convicted of any felony or a crime, is he a drug user? Or has he ever been in a mental institution? Upon receiving the form, the store calls the FBI to run a check that takes only a few minutes. Unless the FBI can determine the buyer is “mentally defective”, the sale is allowed.
There are also other ways to obtain firearms without a background check, as they are only required when buying from a store. Buyers can also visit dozens of gun exhibitions happening all over America every weekend. Other than that, many Americans also sell and purchase guns among friends and family. Many have argued whether such gun-friendly laws are a blessing or a curse. Besides citizens, activists, and gun control advocates, Democratic politicians have also pushed Congress to address the issue.
Constitutional Rights of Americans
It is highly regarded as unlikely that Democrats will be able to help pass stricter legislation on guns. Repeated attempts to pass gun laws have faced opposition from Republicans in the US Congress. They made it clear that responding to mass shootings with gun restrictions will not stop the crime from happening. They also accused the Democrats of trying to take away the “constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens” after every mass murder. Republicans argued that if even they managed to restrict guns, the criminals would not follow the laws anyway. Instead, they advocate that a law-abiding citizen holding a weapon can stop such incidents from happening in the first place. The Texas school shooting occurred just a few days before Republican Senators were scheduled to speak at National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention with Texas governor Greg Abbot. One of the speakers, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, accused the Democrats of using the tragedy as an excuse to achieve political goals.
Mass Shootings Expand Firearms Access
Texas has seen some of the worst gun violence in the recent past. Even Republicans have previously considered reforming the laws following mass shootings. They did it in 2018 when a 17-year old student killed 10 people and injured 13 in Santa Fe High School. Governor Abbot called on the lawmakers to think about a “red flag” law that allowed courts to strip weapons from individuals who posed a threat to themselves and others. However, after heavy opposition from fellow Republicans and gun rights activists, the governor backed away from his stance. Later, Texas passed more laws supporting additional access to guns for teachers and security forces on campuses.
In 2019, two mass shootings occurred in Texas only a few weeks apart. One was in El Paso, when a confirmed racist killed 23 people at Walmart and the other in Midland and Odessa, where a dismissed trucker went on a shooting rampage, killing 7 people and injuring 22. Abbot discussed requiring additional background checks for a stranger to stranger gun sales. However, in 2021, the state Legislature instead passed a long-sought bill by gun rights advocates. It allowed Texas residents to carry a gun without a permit openly.
According to statistics, there have already been 27 school shootings in the first 5 months of 2022 alone. They killed 24 kids and 3 adults while injured 56. Little kids are regularly rehearsing steps to follow if a shooter enters the school. Besides Texas, California is another state where mass shootings occur like a norm. The 2019 shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California also made people demand stricter gun control laws. Two gunmen opened fire at the annual food festival, killing 4 people and injuring 15.