WASHINGTON: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” US President Joe Biden asked his nation on Wednesday, hours after a teenage gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school in Texas.
The powerful gun lobby in America has so far prevented all administrations from making strict gun control laws, although mass shootings at American schools continue to happen with regular intervals.
The 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos entered the Robb Elementary School in a small Texas town of Uvalde at 11:32am on Tuesday, barricaded himself inside a classroom and started shooting.
At 12:17pm, the school posted messages on social media, confirming that they had “an active shooter” inside the building. By 1:06pm, the local police announced ‘neutralising”, the shooter, apparently killed when law-enforcement agents returned fire.
At 3pm, Texas Governor Greg Abbott identified the suspect, saying Ramos abandoned his vehicle and entered the school with a handgun and a rifle.
By Wednesday afternoon, police had released victims’ names — most of them between five and 10. The victims included eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia and Amerie Jo Garza, Makenna Lee Elrod, Xavier Javier Lopez, Jose Flores, Navaeh Brown, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, and Ellie Lugo, all aged 10.
Amerie, a 4th-grader, spent her morning celebrating her appointment to the honour roll but less than two hours later, Ramos had a rifle pointed in her face, a local media report claimed.
“You’re going to die,” he told Amerie Jo and other children. Amerie started to dial 911 but before she could make the call, Ramos killed her, the report added.
Soon after the governor’s news conference, US television channels started showing live scenes from the school and the areas around it: One man walking away, sobbing into his phone “she is gone”. A woman standing by herself, alternately crying, and yelling into her phone, shaking her fist, and stamping her feet. Another man telling reporters that his grandson, eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia, was among those killed.
Later an Uvalde police officer told journalists Ramos shot his grandmother before driving to school. A mugshot circulating in the US media showed Ramos as a young man with brown hair, looking in front of him with an expressionless gaze.
According to US media reports, Ramos attended the town’s high school, worked at a Wendy’s in Uvalde where Ramos, “kept to himself mostly” and was “the quiet type”. At Wendy’s, he didn’t really socialise with the other employees.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis on Wednesday said he was “heartbroken” over the shooting incident, AFP adds.
“I am left heartbroken by the massacre in the elementary school in Texas,” the Argentine pontiff said after his weekly general audience.
“I pray for the children, for the adults killed and for their families. It is time to say enough to indiscriminate arms trafficking. Let us all commit to ensuring such tragedies can no longer take place.”