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Uvalde: One year on from the third-deadliest school shooting in the US

Pain and anger persist among the victims’ families, many of whom are still pursuing justice. Some survivors are looking for different paths

Uvalde, Texas.
Memorial in honor of the victims of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas.Paula Escalada Medrano (EFE)
Alonso Martínez

The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, holds the unfortunate distinction of being the third deadliest school shooting in the United States. It ranks as the ninth deadliest mass shooting in the country, serving as a harrowing example of gun violence. The incident sparked extensive discussions about American gun culture, political gridlocks, and the failure of law enforcement to intervene during the attack. These issues continue to be subjects of controversy and ongoing investigations. Despite the families of the victims seeking justice and advocating for changes in gun laws, the government’s lack of interest remains a point of frustration.

Today, the school remains closed and scheduled for demolition, while the city pays tribute to the victims. Various murals throughout the streets of the town commemorate the students and teachers, showcasing aspects of their lives. Notably, the perpetrator’s name is omitted, as if erased from memory. However, the pain and anger persist among the victim’s families, many of whom are still pursuing justice.

Gun control

On June 25, 2022, a month after the shooting, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, marking the most significant federal gun reform legislation in nearly three decades. The act introduced changes to the mental health system, school safety programs, and gun safety laws. It focused on implementing extended background checks for gun purchasers under the age of 21, considering that the shooter was 18 at the time. However, in Texas, Republican officials have avoided addressing the issue of gun control.

On April 19, 2023, Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of one of the victims, urged Texas lawmakers to pass proposed gun restrictions, such as raising the age requirement for purchasing AR-15 rifles, similar to the one used in the shooting. This marked the first time the issue received a hearing, though no vote was taken. Republican leaders also did not express any intentions to consider or vote on such proposed measures before the session’s end in May.

Since the shooting, several officials have resisted the notion of implementing more comprehensive gun control measures. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has stated that stricter gun regulations are “not a real solution.” Instead, several Senate Republicans have advocated for increased security in schools, including limiting entryways and arming teachers and other school officials. In Uvalde, some schools have implemented single entrances monitored by guards, while parents are prohibited from approaching the campus after dropping off their children. Additionally, drills simulating a shooter’s entry have become part of the students’ routine.

Lawsuits

Lawsuits have become another route pursued by affected families. Mayah Zamora’s family filed a lawsuit against the store that sold the gunman his AR-style rifle, as well as the gun manufacturer, Daniel Defense, citing dangerous marketing practices. Other families have taken similar legal actions. However, these lawsuits are still in their early stages, and families may face challenges, particularly when it comes to holding gun makers liable due to federal protections.

Investigations into the police conduct during the shooting are ongoing, with separate inquiries being conducted by the Texas Ranger division and the United States Department of Justice. On July 17, 2022, the Texas House Investigative Committee released a 77-page report that highlighted systemic failures, poor decision-making, and criticism directed at local police, as well as state and federal officials and agencies. While 376 law enforcement officials responded to the shooting, it was only Border Patrol officers who confronted the gunman, bypassing UCISD officers an hour after the first responders arrived. Parents’ attempts to enter the school to rescue their children were met with police resistance, leading to violent conflicts.

Several police officers have been fired, government officials have been dismissed, and school district officials have taken early retirements. Nevertheless, there are still individuals associated with the incident whom the families of the victims are urging to be removed from their positions. The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has faced criticism for renewing contracts of employees and administrators accused of mishandling parent communications on the day of the shooting. Parents have reported being silenced during school board meetings and being banned from school district property.

Survivors

The survivors of the shooting have each embarked on their own paths of recovery. Arnulfo Reyes, the sole survivor from Classroom 111, recently spoke to NBC news, expressing a sense of abandonment by the district in the year since the tragedy. He revealed that the district had not provided adequate support, stating, “They’ve never really given support... They just forgot us.” Some parents have sued the school district for its handling of the shooting, but Reyes chose a different route. Along with other plaintiffs, he filed a civil claim against the shooter, his family, and the companies that provided security and communications equipment used in the response. Reyes continues to heal from his injuries.

Mayah Zamora, the 11-year old survivor of the attack, recently attended the San Antonio food bank with her family. Christina Zamora, her mother, says she has been looking for ways to “make a difference” with the life she almost lost that May 24. “From the time she was discharged from the hospital, has shown a need to help.

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