US: Uvalde lays first school shooting victims to rest

The shooting that killed 21 people, including 19 children near Texas, has spurred desperate calls for gun reform

By AFP

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People gather at a memorial site in the town square of Uvalde set up for those killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. — AP
People gather at a memorial site in the town square of Uvalde set up for those killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. — AP

Published: Tue 31 May 2022, 7:58 PM

Last updated: Tue 31 May 2022, 8:08 PM

The small, traumatised Texan town of Uvalde begins Tuesday to bury its dead from an elementary school shooting that killed 19 young children and left the tightly-knit community united in grief and anger.

Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, both 10, are expected to be laid to rest, with further funerals scheduled over the coming weeks.


As the community mourned, anger has seethed over the response of police, who came under intense criticism since the May 24 tragedy over why it took well over an hour to neutralise the gunman — the “wrong decision,” Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw has admitted.

The great-grandfather of one of the young victims berated police near the memorial of white crosses surrounded by wreaths and bouquets of flowers.


“They could tell me ‘Oh, we made a mistake. We made the wrong decision’. But my great-granddaughter is not coming back to me,” said a distraught 78-year-old Ruben Mata Montemayor.

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When US President Joe Biden visited the town, about an hour’s drive from the Mexico border, over the weekend, shouts of “do something!” rang out from the crowd.

The shooting — the latest in an epidemic of gun violence in the United States that came less than two weeks after 10 people died in the attack at a Buffalo grocery store by a young gunman targeting African Americans — has spurred desperate calls for gun reform.

“There’s no words to describe (it),” said Esther Rubio, who travelled from nearby San Antonio to attend the wake on Monday for Amerie Jo.

Her pictures decorated the funeral home where friends and family gathered, just across the street from Robb Elementary School, where a local 18-year-old gunned down 19 children and two teachers before he was killed by police.

While mass shootings draw anguished attention and spur momentary demands for change, gun regulation faces deep resistance from most Republicans and some rural-state Democrats.

Biden on Monday vowed to “continue to push” for reform, saying, “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it”.

Some key lawmakers have also voiced cautious optimism and a bipartisan group of lawmakers worked through the weekend to pursue possible areas of compromise.

They reportedly were focusing on laws to raise the age for gun purchases or to allow police to remove guns from people deemed at risk — but not on an outright ban on high-powered rifles like the weapon used in both Uvalde and Buffalo, New York.

With the country still reeling over the Uvalde massacre — the deadliest school attack since 20 children and six staff were killed in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 — US media reported the country was hit by a dozen more mass shootings over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

The United States generally counts mass shootings as involving four or more deaths.

At least 132 gun-deaths and 329 injuries were recorded nationwide from Saturday to Monday evening, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.

Mourners in Uvalde — a mostly Latino town of 15,000 — have echoed calls for change.

“At the end of the day, if this child cannot even sip a glass of wine because he’s too young, then guess what? He’s too young to purchase a firearm,” said Pamela Ellis, who travelled from Houston to pay her respects.

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