© Reuters. US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden stop to look at a brief display of candles marking the first anniversary of the school shooting at Rupp Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, during an event at the White House in Washington, US, May 24. And
Written by Ivan Garcia and Steve Gorman
UVALDE, Texas (Reuters) – From a candlelit event at the White House to a butterfly shooting in the Texas Hill Country, Americans on Wednesday paused to reflect on the 21 victims of the fatal shooting at an elementary school one year ago and the seemingly endless scourge of American violence. .
President Joe Biden used the occasion to renew his call for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, declaring that “too many schools, too many everyday places are becoming killing fields.”
A much larger memory drew hundreds to an outdoor amphitheater park about two miles from Rupp Elementary School in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman opened fire in a classroom with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle on May 24, 2022.
19 pupils and two teachers were killed, and 17 other people were wounded in the attack, the deadliest American school shooting in nearly a decade.
The assault ended when police officers who had waited over an hour to storm the classroom and confront the gunman — even as the children hiding inside were repeatedly calling 911 for help — finally rose up and shot the suspect.
Law enforcement actions that day were widely criticized as disastrous. Adding to the toll from the shooting, the husband of one of the dead teachers died days later while preparing for his wife’s funeral.
Evening singing and praying
On Wednesday evening, several hundred community members gathered in the Uvalde Memorial Park to pray and sing, and the attendees began opening white envelopes to release butterflies over the amphitheater garden while guitar music played gently.
Several young survivors of the shooting later led the crowd in lighting candles just before sunset.
The vigil was hosted by Lives Robbed, a group formed to support families of Uvalde victims and advocate for greater safety in the use of firearms.
The Uvalde tragedy stands as the country’s deadliest episode of gun violence over the past year, even as mass shootings and threats of armed bloodshed have become commonplace in American life, making “active shooting” drills routine in schools and elsewhere. institutions.
“We can’t end this pandemic until Congress passes the common sense of gun safety laws and keeps weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people (and) until states do the same,” Biden said.
More children and teens in the United States were killed by guns than from any other cause in 2020, according to an analysis of US government death data by researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
“It’s time to act. It’s time to make our voices heard. Not as Democrats or Republicans, but as friends, neighbors, parents and Americans,” Biden said.
During the White House ceremony, Biden and the first lady stopped at each of the four columns holding lit candles with the names of the children and teachers who died.
In a separate statement, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona cited the enactment last year of a bill described as the most significant gun control legislation passed by Congress in 30 years. It has authorized $1 billion in federal grants to strengthen school security, expand school mental health services, and establish classroom safety and violence prevention programs.
But Cardona said more needed to be done to change “the status quo in which our teachers have to teach our children how to run, hide and fight before they can learn to read”.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll for the Juvaldi massacre found that 84% of respondents supported universal background checks for firearm sales and 70% supported red flag laws making it easier for law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others. .
Some gun rights advocates oppose background checks, saying they violate constitutional rights to own guns while failing to prevent criminals from obtaining them. They also contend that many red flag laws trample due process rights.
More than 700 mass shootings have been documented in the United States since Uvalde’s moment, according to the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive, which defines such incidents as any in which four or more people are injured or killed, not counting the shooter.