- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2022

An 18-year-old gunman opened fire in a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school on Tuesday, killing 19 children and two adults, according to Texas officials.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter, Salvador Ramos, was killed by police. Law enforcement officials said a Border Patrol agent working nearby rushed to the scene without backup and shot and killed the gunman.

Two law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries in an exchange of gunfire.

The death toll of 20 was provided by Texas law enforcement officials, though it was not clear if it included Mr. Ramos.

“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, announcing that all school activities were canceled until further notice. “We’re a small community and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.”

Mass shootings have become a tragic and regular occurrence in and outside of schools. Ten days ago, a gunman entered a Buffalo, New York, supermarket and killed 13 people in what appears to be a racially motivated attack. 

President Biden spoke to the nation from the White House and made a plea for Congress to pass new gun laws.

“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Mr. Biden said at the White House shortly after returning from a five-day trip to Asia that was bookended by tragedy.

With first lady Jill Biden standing by his side in the Roosevelt Room, Mr. Biden added, “I am sick and tired. We have to act.”

Similar please following previous mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, failed to break the gridlock in Congress.

Mr. Biden also directed all flags to be flown at half-staff through Saturday in honor of the victims.

In Uvalde, the gunman, who was wearing body armor and had hinted on social media of an upcoming attack, crashed his car outside the school and went inside armed, Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.

The gunman shot his grandmother earlier in the day and she is clinging to life, according to local news reports.

The shooting occurred around 11:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time, local police said.

According to Mr. Abbot, the shooter entered Robb Elementary School with a handgun and possibly a rifle, and began firing. 

“He shot and killed, horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher,” Mr. Abbott said. 

Mr. Abbott said the shooter resided in Uvalde, which is about 85 miles west of San Antonio. Local reports said he attended Uvalde High School. 

An Instagram account that is believed to be linked to Mr. Ramos shows a young man glumly posing for a selfie. Another photo shows a hand grasping an ammunition clip. Another photo on the Instagram page showed two semi-automatic rifles. 

According to news reports, Mr. Ramos abandoned his truck near the school before running into the building and opening fire.

The elementary school enrolls about 600 kids in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. Students were in the final few days of school before summer break. 

Some of the injured were transported to nearby hospitals in school buses.

School officials are directing parents to a local civic center to find their children and are being told to wait until they are notified their child has been accounted for.

The shooting immediately renewed calls for stricter gun control laws and comes nearly a decade after a 20-year-old gunman shot and killed 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. 

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who has worked unsuccessfully for years to pass bipartisan gun control legislation in the Senate, went to the floor Tuesday afternoon and called on lawmakers to try again. 

“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees, and beg my colleagues, find a path forward here.  Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, called the incident “horrible,” and told reporters at the Capitol that lawmakers were working to get a clearer picture of what happened and “what the motivation was.”

“No parent should ever have to endure the heartbreak they have,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said on Twitter.  “None of our kids should ever have to suffer this fear or trauma. We don’t have to be a country that lets mass shootings happen at our schools over and over and over again.”

According to the Uvalde school district website, Robb Elementary does not utilize a secure vestibule or buzz-in system to admit visitors, but has fencing around the school to “restrict access to individuals without a need to be on the campus.”

Teachers are instructed to keep their classroom doors locked at all times and both students and staff receive training in the event of an emergency that requires a lockdown or evacuation.

The Robb Elementary staff does not include a police officer or security officer but the Uvalde district employs four officers. 

The Uvalde school district serves mostly Hispanic students who are economically disadvantaged and are considered “at risk.”

This article includes wire service reports.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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