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President Joe Biden called on lawmakers to pass “common-sense gun laws” in an impassioned address Tuesday evening, after a shooting at a Texas elementary school left 19 children dead, saying, “as a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN late Tuesday 22 people died in a midday shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas: 19 children, two adults and the gunman.
It’s not clear how many people were injured, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier Tuesday two police officers were shot and both are expected to survive, and a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson says a Border Patrol agent was “wounded by the shooter during the exchange of gunfire” after responding to a call for assistance.
Estrada said authorities received a call about a man crashing his vehicle into a ditch near the elementary school in Uvalde, a small city located about midway between San Antonio and the Mexican border, after which the man exited the vehicle armed with a rifle and engaged with police officers before entering the school building.
Abbott identified the alleged shooter as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a resident of Uvalde and former student at the school, and said he was likely killed by responding officers.
In a separate incident earlier in the day, Estrada told CNN that Ramos also shot his grandmother, who was airlifted to a hospital and remained in critical condition Tuesday night.
In his Tuesday speech, Biden lamented that Ramos was reportedly able to get an assault weapon, adding: “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for, except to kill someone?”
“It’s just sick,” Biden said, citing Tuesday’s shooting as well as a broader recent uptick in mass shootings. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
The president specifically cited the Federal Assault Weapons Ban—which took effect in 1994 but expired a decade later—as an example of a “common-sense” policy. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has also called on Congress to pass a bill requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases, but the legislation appears unlikely to attract the 10 Republican Senate votes required to break the filibuster.
Shortly after the shooting, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the incident “horrific” but warned against Congress taking up gun control legislation, telling CNN: “You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.” Cruz, Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are all scheduled to speak in Houston on Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.
What We Don’t Know
Authorities haven’t named a potential motive, but Pete Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, said the shooter acted alone and police are not looking for any other suspects.
Tuesday’s massacre is the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, and it’s the deadliest at a U.S. elementary school since 27 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Uvalde is a community of about 15,000 people, located about midway between San Antonio and the Mexican border. Robb Elementary School serves grades 2-4 and has a student population of less than 600, according to U.S. News and World Report.