Uvalde, Texas, USA – A year ago, an 18-year-old man brandishing an AR-15 rifle broke into Robb Elementary School in the southern Texas town of Uvalde.
He brutally murdered two teachers and 19 children.
A year after the murder, an overwhelming sense of emptiness remains in the hearts and lives of the victim’s parents, siblings, friends, and many in this mostly Latinx U.S. town of about 15,000. ing.
On Wednesday, relatives of the victims held a candlelit vigil at the Uvalde Memorial Amphitheater to commemorate the war dead. Hundreds attended the ceremony. Many of the victims’ families wore shirts with pictures of their deceased family members. Some people prayed. Some sang. Some cried.
For some, it feels like they spent the whole year crying.
In addition to the tears, what many see as a failure to respond to the mass shootings and a lack of accountability for Congress’ failure to pass gun control legislation aimed at preventing more mass shootings. There were also voices of anger and frustration.
Berlanda Areola, 50, the grandmother of victim Amelie Joe Garza, 10, told Al Jazeera that her anger and frustration over her granddaughter’s death prompted her to help start an anti-gun violence group. life taken.
Areola hopes other residents like her can fill the void left by the tragedy by becoming activists for school safety, law enforcement accountability and “common sense gun control.” He said he is.
“It breaks my heart to think of the Sandy Hook family.” [a school where a 20-year-old man shot and killed 26 people, most of them six-year-olds, in 2012] But I didn’t participate as I should,” Areola said. “People need to participate, vote, and push politicians to demand better laws.”
Areola and others made repeated three-hour trips to Austin’s state capitol to talk to lawmakers about gun control. Some are marching to Washington, D.C., demanding a ban on assault weapons. Others have testified before a US congressional committee. But it’s been a year since his granddaughter was thoughtlessly murdered, and Mr. Areola wonders how much progress he’s made.
“It really pisses me off,” she said. “It’s been a year and not much has changed.”
“I’m mad. We’re mad.”
‘We need real accountability’
Uvalde resident Mike Brown was standing on the street corner across from the town square in Uvalde Wednesday afternoon. The 41-year-old had a placard that read, “Prosecute Pete Arredondo.”
Brown and his children knew some of the victims and were still angry with law enforcement, particularly former Uvalde School District police chief Pete Arredondo, he said.
Arredondo was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene during the shooting. Although Arredondo has defended his own response to the incident, he has been widely criticized for not immediately confronting his attackers.
Three months after the killing, Uvalde School District fired Arredondo, but has not faced legal action.
“Pete Arredondo didn’t do his duty,” Brown said. “I know he was fired, but we need real accountability.”
A 77-page report filed by the Texas House Committee in July 2022 called Arredondo a “gross and tragic mistake” in treating the attacker as a “barrier” rather than an “aggressive shooter.” concluded that he had committed
The report describes how hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers descended on Robb Elementary School, but waited an unacceptably long time before breaking into the classroom where the shooter was located and confronting him. detailed.
“They did not prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the report said.
Months after the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Commissioner Steve McCullough said he would resign if the officers under his command were responsible for anything. Mr. McCullough has previously blamed Arredondo for his slow response.
The department will eventually fire the two officers for their failure to respond, but Mr McCraw has refused to resign.
“Mr McLaw said he would resign, but he hasn’t resigned yet,” Mr Areola said. “We demand justice and accountability from all law enforcement agencies involved.”
stricter gun control
When Brett Cross testified before a Texas House committee in April 2023, he wore a shirt with an upside-down US flag and the slogan “One Nation Under Gun Violence.” was Cross was the uncle and legal guardian of 10-year-old Uvalde victim Uzia Garcia.
Mr Cross traveled to the Capitol to testify in support of a bill that would raise the minimum age for purchasing certain semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21. Under current law, an 18-year-old can buy an AR-15 rifle without a permit. in Texas.
After the Uvalde shooting, many Republican politicians in Texas expressed fear, sympathy and prayers for the families of the victims, but resisted any talk of tighter gun control.
“I couldn’t let your thoughts and prayers stop an 18-year-old from buying two high-end semi-automatic rifles,” Cross told lawmakers.
“Your thoughts and prayers are empty. The law is not,” said Cross.
A bill to raise the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle is still pending on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives and appears to have been defeated, says Nicole Golden, executive director of the bipartisan anti-gun group Texas Gun Sense. . – Violence non-profit organizations.
“I’m disappointed that no legislation was passed to stop another mass shooting,” Golden said. “But the survivors of Uvalde did their best.”
“They have had a huge impact inside and out. [Capitol]said Golden. “They have changed public sentiment.”
Areola is shaken by Congress’ failure to pass tougher gun laws, but she stands firm and she and others will continue to fight for justice and accountability. It has said.
“We are not going to walk away,” Areola said. “We are not going to stop.”