Abbot prays with supporter at vigil at Uvalde County Fairplex Arena, in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022. Photo credit: Gov. Abbot's Twitter

Texas Gov. Abbott attempts to dodge criticisms surrounding Uvalde massacre

Amid Uvalde massacre aftermath, Gov. Greg Abbott cancels appearance at the National Rifle Association of America’s convention taking place in Houston this weekend.

In light of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School this week, Gov. Abbott (R-TX) has moved his in-person speech to a prerecord. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also relinquished his attendance. Gun vendors, country singers and other elected officials also abandoned their commitments to participate in this weekend’s NRA annual meeting, days after a gunman killed 21 people, including 19 kids, and two adults at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Gov. Abbott, billed as a lifelong NRA member, initially blamed the Biden Administration for the massacre.  “The lawlessness we’re seeing at the southern border is the result of Biden refusing to enforce the law,” he accused.

He also stated at a press conference that the massacre “could’ve been a lot worse” were it not for “law enforcement officials 
. . . showing amazing courage . . .  by running toward gunfire.”

In spite of his claims, a reverberating rejection across Texas became more pronounced as evidence showed that police officers did the opposite. Not only did they run from the shooter, but many of those who had children in the school, pulled their kids out while leaving other students inside. 

Two days later, Gov. Abbott switched his tone to one presenting grief. Tweeting his participation in a vigil on Friday, he posted, “Somber evening as Cecilia & I joined Uvalde to mourn the loss of innocent lives.” But many believe his cries are crocodile tears due to his history of die-hard support of gun rights.

Since the shooting, former congressman and current gubernatorial candidate, Beto O’Rourke has been endlessly ripping into Gov. Abbott’s pro-gun stance. Appealing to the large Latino population, O’Rourke blames the current Texas Administration for its lax position on firearm legislation as part of the problem with the spike of mass shootings, all the while, positioning himself as the better campaigner.” There will be more Uvaldes, El Pasos, Sutherland Springs, and Santa Fes until we decide to put the lives of our kids ahead of the political careers of gun lobby politicians like Greg Abbott,” warned O’Rourke 

Demonstrators in Texas and around the country protested. “We have to take sensible gun actions for public health right now. We cannot wait any longer,” said Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church at a press conference given by Lift Every Voice Oregon. He continued. “The gun reform initiative is pushing for state legislators to take more action for better firearm laws that would require background checks and training that includes live-fire.”

In New York, Gays Against Guns rallied in Times Square this week. Some protestors dressed in white while they held photos of those slain in the Uvalde massacre.

The loudest organized demonstration was in Texas at the NRA convention where a gun show runs simultaneously. Thousands of rally goers swarmed the grounds of Houston’s convention center.  “Schools should be sanctuaries of safety for our children, not where they go to die,” insisted the group, Moms Demand Action, who were in attendance at the demonstration.

“I’m a mom who’s demanding action,” asserted Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) at the Moms Demand Action event. “My message is this. . . . we do this because we love our children . . . and that love is more powerful  . . . than hate.”

Regardless of the ardent gun reform demonstrations taking place outside the convention, inside the NRA gathering, the events moved along smoothly. Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who refused to answer a British reporter’s question as to why these mass shootings happen in the U.S., had much to say during his speaking time. “Tragedies like the event of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions, demanding that we see where our culture is failing,” he insisted. “We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the Constitution or infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens.”

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While a 2021 Pew Research Survey shows that 48 percent of Americans see guns as an issue, gun sales have gradually spiked in the last several years. In 2021, an estimated 20 million guns were sold, while almost 6 million in sales occurred this year. These numbers do not account for the number of ghost guns independently made. Plus, 8.4 million people purchased guns for the first time in 2020.

Simultaneously, for the last three years, an ammunition shortage has resulted in a scramble across the country for gun owners, and hard for independent shops to remain open. Of other concern, the years-long lack of ammo raises questions as to how the last two mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and the latest in Uvalde, could acquire so many rounds of bullets for high-powered rifles, so close to their killing sprees. 

Meanwhile, at the White House, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the need for “common sense gun safety reform.” Spouting statistics that show 90 percent of gun owners support background checks, including 84 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of NRA members, she also argued the NRA “represent the interests of the gun industry, the gun manufacturers” which “has proven time and time again that they are contributing to the problem of gun violence, [rather than] trying to solve it.”

Between the heightened conversation around gun rights, more information about the Robb Elementary School shooting surface. Although students repeatedly called 911 for help, police Chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Peter Arredondo reported that he commanded officers to not enter into the building because he assessed that the children inside the school grounds were not at risk. So much so, the police arrested a mother who drove 40 miles to retrieve her children. Cops also tacked a father then pepper sprayed him upon his attempt to enter the school.

Many questions remain in the active investigation. What is certain, officials have been called out for their inconsistencies and conflicting reports of the events surrounding the shooting. As well, Gov. Abbott continues to receive more backlash for focusing on services of impacted families rather than speaking of gun reform. For now, families are preparing to bury their dead.

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