UVALDE, May 27 — US gun lobby group the National Rifle Association (NRA) will hold its annual convention in Texas today, days after a horrific school shooting in the state killed 19 children and two teachers.
The meeting will be held in Houston, a few hours drive east of the elementary school in the small town of Uvalde where an 18-year-old gunman used an assault rifle to carry out the massacre on Tuesday.
Former US president Donald Trump on Wednesday confirmed that he will attend the NRA meeting, saying that the United States “needs real solutions and real leadership in this time, not politicians and partisan considerations.”
In a statement on its website, the NRA — which has been instrumental in preventing the passage of stricter firearms regulations — said the mass murder in Uvalde was “the act of a lone, deranged criminal.”
Yesterday, Texas police faced angry questions over why it took an hour to neutralize the gunman, as video emerged of desperate parents begging officers to storm the school.
In one jolty, nearly seven-minute clip posted on YouTube, parents are seen screaming expletives at police trying to keep them away from Robb Elementary School.
“It’s my daughter!” one woman bellows in chaotic scenes of crying and shoving.
Angeli Rose Gomez, whose children were inside, told The Wall Street Journal she was handcuffed by federal marshals after she and others pushed police to intervene.
In another video, parents at what is apparently the rear of the building complain angrily that police are doing nothing as the country’s worst school shooting in a decade unfolds.
One woman, frantic about her son, yells to police: “If they’ve got a shot, shoot him or something. Go on.”
Jacinto Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn died on Tuesday, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting.
“There was at least 40 lawmen armed to the teeth but didn’t do a darn thing (until) it was far too late,” Cazares told ABC News Wednesday.
Daniel Myers and his wife Matilda — both local pastors — told AFP they saw parents at the scene growing frantic as police seemed to wait on reinforcements before entering the school.
“Parents were desperate,” said Daniel Myers, 72. “One family member, he says: ‘I was in the military, just give me a gun, I’ll go in. I’m not going to hesitate. I’ll go in.'”
‘Approximately an hour’
The tight-knit Latino community was changed forever when Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old with a history of being bullied, entered the school and gunned down students and teachers with an assault rifle.
Relatives said the husband of one of the teachers killed in the attack died Thursday from a medical emergency — caused by grief over the loss of his wife. The couple had four children.
Facing rapid-fire questioning by journalists on the police response, Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety said investigators were still working to piece together exactly what happened.
After shooting his own grandmother, Ramos crashed her vehicle near the school, Escalon said, then fired on bystanders before entering the school through a door that was apparently unlocked.
Officers went in minutes later, but were held back by gunfire and called for backup. A tactical team including US Border Patrol agents entered and killed the gunman “approximately an hour later.”
In the interim, officers evacuated students and teachers and unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the gunman, who held them back with rifle fire, Escalon said.
‘I have no words’
Speaking out for the first time, Ramos’ mother Adriana Reyes told ABC News her son could be aggressive when angry but was “not a monster” — and that she was not aware he had been buying weapons.
“I had an uneasy feeling sometimes, like ‘what are you up to?'” she told ABC Wednesday evening. “We all have a rage, that some people have it more than others.”
“Those kids… I have no words,” Reyes said through tears. “I don’t know what to say about those poor kids.”
Students who went to high school with Ramos said he bullied others as well as being on the receiving end of abuse.
“I do vividly remember him being a bully in school. It wasn’t just that he was getting bullied, he was also the bully,” 18-year-old Jaime Cruz told AFP.
The Uvalde shooting was the deadliest since 20 elementary-age children and six staff were killed at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, which made the assault rifle used in Uvalde, told AFP it will not attend the NRA’s convention in Houston in light of the “horrifying tragedy.”
“We believe this week is not the appropriate time to be promoting our products in Texas at the NRA meeting,” said the company, which stated its gun had been “criminally misused” in the attack.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has brushed aside calls for tougher gun laws in his state — where attachment to the right to bear arms runs deep.
US President Joe Biden — who will head to Uvalde on Sunday — has called on lawmakers to take on the gun lobby and enact “common sense gun reforms.”
Gun control activists and lawmakers gathered outside the US Capitol Thursday, vowing no letup in their efforts in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.
“Gun violence prevention is going to be on the ballot,” said the Democratic senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal.
The March for Our Lives advocacy group — founded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida — has called for nationwide protests on June 11 to press for gun control. — AFP