AUSTIN, Texas ( Associated Press) — Just before the sun came out on Thursday, Jazmin Cazares sat on her sister’s bedside and wept for the 9-year-old who attended Uvalde school a month earlier.
Then the purple-haired teenager got up for the four-hour drive to the Texas Capitol, where she pleaded with lawmakers to pass strict gun laws and questioned why so many security measures failed.
“I shouldn’t be here right now. I should watch the movie at home with my sister,” she said snorting. “I’m here begging you guys to do something or change something, because the people who got her in school Had to be safe, they failed.”
His sister Jacqueline – a tough minded and kind girl Who dreamed of moving to Paris and becoming a vet – 19 children were shot dead inside Robb Elementary School on 24 May Before the police stormed the classroom and killed the gunman. Two teachers also died.
A string of genocide and recent mass killings in the US has rekindled debates over gun laws, school safety and how to stop the violence. In Texas, lawmakers have responded to a number of mass shootings in recent years by making guns easier to carry, rather than stifle.
Jazmin’s testimony before a committee of lawmakers looking at how to stop mass shootings comes as Congress moves toward passing its most far-reaching gun violence bill. decades in and the US Supreme Court issued a ruling Saying that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public.
But for a 17-year-old girl entering her final year of high school, all that mattered was doing something to make schools safer. She said that she has been doing active shooter practice since she was in pre-kindergarten.
“It’s horrible, don’t know if it’s true or not, every time we go into lockdown. And then go to school next year?” He said. “The decision to go to school shouldn’t be there. But it is. I have my senior year, that’s all. Can I survive this?”
Cazares told lawmakers that they could honor victims by adopting gun background checks and “red flag laws” that allow guns to be removed from people at high risk of harming themselves or others.
The Uvalde gunsmith was a former student, Salvador Ramos, who bought an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle used in the assault after he turned 18.
“There should be no reason this killer should have access to a shotgun,” said Cazares, who later said she knew committee members were listening when she saw them tearing up.
“I felt it. It felt real,” she said.
The Republican-controlled legislature in Texas has lifted gun restrictions over the past decade, even as the state has suffered mass shootings that have killed more than 85 people since 2018.
The state does not require a permit to carry a long rifle used in Uvalde, and it allows children over the age of 18 to purchase them. Last year, lawmakers made it legal for people 21 and older to carry a handgun in public without a license, background check, or training.
Jazmin Cazares told lawmakers that she has reviewed the school’s safety regulations since the shooting, ticking off a list of requirements that the shooter has failed to deter, including requiring teachers to keep their doors closed at all times. has been called for.
“How, when some of those classroom doors didn’t close?” He said, family members are sitting behind him wearing T-shirts that have pictures of Jacqueline and the words “Forever in our hearts.”
Her family’s grief, she said, is compounded by the knowledge that what happened at Rob Elementary could have been prevented.
Her younger sister, she said, loved to sing and dance and was “one of the sweetest souls one could ever meet.”
Jacqueline and her cousin, Annabel Rodriguez, were best friends, part of a close quintet of classmates. All five died in the shootout.
Just after Jazmin’s testimony, a woman who lost her parents in the 1991 shooting that killed two dozen people in Killeen, Texas, told the committee that the waiting period for gun sales was “wasteful.” and gun free zones should be eliminated.
“Let’s be clear that the gun, it’s just a tool. It’s a tool that can be used to kill a family, but it’s a tool that can be used to protect a family,” Susannah Hoop he said.
Hupp, a former Republican lawmaker, said he was invited to address by a co-chair of the committee.
After Hoop spoke, Jacqueline’s father, Javier Cazares, followed her down a hallway and exchanged handshakes and a brief hug.
“There’s a binding, just automatically, unsaid,” Hoop said. “In a sense, it was my parents, and they died quickly and they died together. I can’t imagine losing a child. I can’t even go there in my mind.”
Days after the Uvalde tragedy, Javier Cazares tells how he got to school And kept a close eye on the kids running away from school to catch a glimpse of their 9-year-old “crackers”.
He and the other parents got frustrated That the police was not doing much. “A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go out there,'” said Cajares, an army veteran.
Cazares said Thursday that he is still struggling to trust the state police’s ever-evolving timelines. “No one wants to be blamed for their actions that day,” he said.
During the pause in the hearing, Cazares and his family met with about 10 police chiefs and officers in a hallway. “We failed you,” Police Chief Stan Standridge in San Marcos, Texas, told the family.
Delays and inaccuracies in law enforcement response are now at the center of many investigations. This week the Texas state police chief called it a “gross failure.” And said police response ignored everything learned since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Police had enough officers and firepower to stop the gunman three minutes after he entered the school, said Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He put much of the blame for the delay on Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, whom McCraw called the commander in charge.
School district placed Arredondo on administrative leave on Wednesday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said the facts of what happened were unclear.
Arredondo has said that he did not consider himself in charge. And assume someone else has taken control. He has repeatedly declined requests for comment from the Associated Press.
Uvalde’s mayor pushed back against placing the blame on Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Safety had repeatedly issued false information and highlighted the role of its own officials.
Stengel reported from Dallas. Associated Press photographer Eric Gay in Austin and writer John Seaver in Toledo, Ohio contributed to this report.
Get more Associated Press coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting