The state approved new laws in 2019 to arm more teachers, close schools and train for threats. The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, located in a predominantly Latino community between San Antonio and the southern border, had a robust security protocol that included social media threat monitoring software and a small police force. of the campus among its defenses at the time of Tuesday’s nightmare.
Yet a school safety researcher and advocate for superintendents said calls to flood schools with extra security distract from the problem of easy access to guns used to kill children. And as Democrats rage in Washington, Texas and across the country over a lack of federal action to improve background checks with legislation already approved by a house of Congress, Abbott has made it clear that the restricting access to firearms is a no-start in his state.
“Anyone who shoots someone else has a mental health issue, period,” the governor said Wednesday after officials released new details about this week’s horror inside the school. Elementary Robb.
“There are more people getting shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” he added. “We have to realize that people who think, ‘well, if we could just implement tougher gun laws,’ they’re going to solve the problem – Chicago, Los Angeles and New York refute that.”
Authorities were still looking for a clear motive behind the shooting on Wednesday that left at least 17 injured in addition to the dead, and warned that many details were still under investigation. The attacker, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had no known criminal history and lived with his grandmother.
Ramos purchased two semi-automatic rifles from a local sporting goods store and 375 rounds in the days before the killings, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said.
Authorities said Ramos then shot his grandmother on Tuesday, drove her vehicle near Robb Elementary, ran it over, then approached a back door on the west side of the school with a bag backpack and a gun.
On Wednesday, state officials initially said a school district resource officer approached the shooter and “engaged him,” but no shots were exchanged before the shooter was enters two connected classrooms. Law enforcement officials abruptly overturned that narrative on Thursday, saying no police officer at the school had ever confronted the attacker when he jumped a fence surrounding the school, shot at the building and entered into campus through what they said was an unlocked door.
“He walked in undisturbed initially,” Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety told reporters, adding that the shooter then fired at responding officers as they called for help.
It took about an hour, Escalon said, before members of an elite Border Patrol SWAT team arrived to lead an effort to break into the classroom and kill the shooter.
The shooting left Texas weighing the limits of recent efforts to expand school safety and mental health services.
A flurry of laws signed onto the state books after the 2018 Santa Fe High School murders aimed to increase mental health awareness and services for educators and students, to require new threat assessments and to allow schools to designate an unlimited number of employees who can carry firearms. School playground.
“We’re all going to go back and look at both exactly what was passed, any gaps in what was passed, [and] any gaps in implementation,” Abbott said of those laws.
The Uvalde School District also supplemented its small police force with a series of security measures, according to school district documents.
The district said it has assigned a group of support counselors and threat assessment teams to each campus and is using software known as Social Sentinel which monitors “all social media with a connection in Uvalde” to identify any potential threats. Robb Elementary was also among a group of campuses that used perimeter fencing designed to limit building access, according to the school district.
By the time Ramos approached the school with a Daniel Defense-branded rifle loaded with ammunition, those measures weren’t enough to stop the deadliest school shooting in the United States since the 2012 massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
“The ability for an 18-year-old to purchase a long gun has been in place in the state of Texas for over 60 years,” Abbott said.
“Why for the majority of these 60 years we haven’t had school shootings, and why do we have them now?” he said. “What I do know is this: We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job of mental health.”
Students organized by an affiliate of the Everytown for Gun Safety organization plan to walk out of schools across the country on Thursday, highlighting how demands to overhaul gun laws remain an important part of the shooting debate. school.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, ranked among organizations calling for enforcement of existing gun laws, expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“The years have passed, and they continue to pass, and nothing is done. Nothing. And children are killed,” said Daniel A. Domenech, the organization’s executive director.
“Who would have thought that parents would have to worry about sending their children to school? Or do they fear that their children will be shot and murdered in the classroom? It’s amazing,” he said.
Odis Johnson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, said his group’s emerging research on school safety suggests that students in schools that rely on law enforcement or other measures supervisors for security have lower test scores and college attendance rates than students at other schools with similar characteristics.
“I would never want to push away resources for mental health support,” Johnson said.
“But the other thing that needs to be said is that the high prevalence of gun ownership in the United States makes it much more likely here than in other countries that students or young people will be exposed to firearms and have access to them. So it’s not just that everyone is healthy, because there will always be someone who falls through the cracks.
Michael Stratford contributed to this report