Crime & Justice

Uvalde marks a year since school massacre, after which nothing has changed

Washington, May 23 (EFE).- Crosses decorated with flowers, toys and children’s photos discolored by the sun, a fenced-off school awaiting demolition and a community split between those demanding stricter gun control and those who refuse to accept such restrictions.

A year after its worst day, Uvalde, Texas, remembers the massacre that changed everyone – but since then, nothing has changed.

Saying she is “angry and frustrated” because “everything’s the same, nothing has changed, nothing’s been done,” Sandra Torres, the mother of Eliahna Cruz Torres, one of the girls who died at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, told EFE.

On that day, an 18-year-old boy entered the school with an assault rifle and murdered 19 children and two teachers.

One day before the anniversary, Torres came to the school with her family with a broom to sweep the small area where crosses are set up to commemorate the victims of the second-deadliest school shooting in US history.

“Sometimes we come and decorate, we change the lights,” she said, adding that she knew the weather recently had been windy and rainy and so she came “to make sure it was clean for her.” Torres continues to talk in the present tense about her 10-year-old daughter.

It was a massacre which, briefly, looked like it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back spurring lawmakers and elected officials to take measures to restrict access to firearms.

But that was merely a hope that came to nothing in a country where 237 mass shootings – those with more than four victims either injured or killed – have been perpetrated so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tallies these grim statistics.

Beside Eliahna’s cross, there are flowers and butterflies, her favorite things. Teddy bears, colored ladybugs, star-shaped balloons or Spiderman dolls decorate the other crosses.

Next to many of them, there is a letter from the families asking for answers and pointing out those they consider guilty of the tragedy: The gun lobbies, which have more power than the people, according to the text.

Although the massacre changed forever the lives of these families and on the doors of many of the homes in this city of 15,000 hang signs saying “Uvalde Strong,” little has changed over the past 12 months, during which many of the relatives of the children killed have become pro-gun-control activists.

The families don’t want owning guns to be prohibited, said Torres, adding that they’re not “trying to ban them,” they just want the age at which you can purchase an assault rifle raised from 18 to 21 and for there to be more stringent background checks for gun buyers.

Texas – governed by Republican Greg Abbott – is one of the states that is most lax in its efforts at gun control, with many citizens packing pistols on their belts as a result of the “open carry” law, which allows people to move about in public with their firearms openly displayed.

Guthrie is one of those gun owners. The 70-year-old is strongly pro-gun and said he believes the blame for mass shootings should not be placed on guns but rather on a “crisis in values” which enables “monsters” like Robb Elementary School shooter Salvador Ramos to emerge.

They want to raise the age at which you can own an assault rifle, Guthrie told EFE, but that won’t stop anything because someone who wants to kill will still be able to do so. In his truck, he carried a 12-gauge shotgun – along with shells in the glove compartment – that, he said, he’d never had to use to defend himself.

In addition, he said that there are firearms in almost all the homes in Uvalde. “Almost everyone has them,” he said, adding that it’s part of the people’s history and “we grew up with them.

Far from changing anything, the Robb school massacre has scarcely caused a ripple among government officials. The only thing that’s happened is that the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill raising the age at which people may own assault rifles, but it has little chance of becoming law because there’s strong opposition to it in the state Senate.

The families continue to await answers about the massacre and several investigations are under way because local police delayed for 77 minutes in entering the school while the shooter continued to kill children inside.

Several families have sued the authorities and also the manufacturer of the AR-15 that Ramos used, although those lawsuits are also proceeding very slowly.

Saying that a year has passed and she feels “like it was yesterday,” Torres added that she doesn’t have her little girl any longer and nobody and nothing can bring her back. But, she added, what she and her fellow activists are continuing to fight for justice and change.

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