Washington, May 25
A gunman killed 18 students and one adult at an elementary school in Texas in a second mass shooting in the US in the last 10 days.
The gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, first shot his grandmother, who is alive but in critical condition, before hitting Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 83 miles west of San Antonio in Texas, with two assault rifles that he had bought shortly after he turned 18 recently. He was killed by law enforcement officers.
His motive had not been ascertained yet.
A white gunman, also 18, had opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14, killing 10 African Americans. He gave himself over to law enforcement. He was motivated by racism and had intended to kill African Americans and chose a grocery frequented by them for his carnage.
"As a nation, we have to ask: When in God's name we are going to stand up to the gun lobby. When in God's name we do (that) we all know in our gut needs to be done," US President Joe Biden in remarks to the nation from the White House. He learnt of the shooting on the flight back from Tokyo.
Biden said of the visit that he was struck by the fact none of these other nations experienced these shootings, with such frequency.
Biden went on to say, with frustration and anger: "Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen, with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God's name is our backbone?"
Gun control laws introduced in Australia, whose Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was among the leaders Biden met in Tokyo, after a 1996 massacre that left 36 people dead is now cited as the gold standard world over and has been used as a model. It has been discussed in the US as well.
The Tuesday shooting was the 27 school shootings in the US in 2022, according to Education Week, which tracks these incidents. There have been 212 mass shootings this year.
The Washington Post has said 300,000 school students have been exposed to gun violence at school since the worst of them all, the Columbine school shooting, in 1999 in which 13 people were killed. In some of the worst school massacres 20 first-graders and 6 adults were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2013 and 17 students and staff in 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Gun violence is a politically sensitive issue in the United States. Calls for commonsense controls peak after every incident of mass shooting and peter out after a while as the powerful gun lobby pushes back with its army of supporters among lawmakers, policy circles and media.