AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school disaster on Thursday tearfully pleaded with Texas lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation, wondering why so many security measures were failing.
“I’m begging you to do something here,” said Jazmin Cazares, whose young sister Jacklyn was one of 19 children killed in the 80 minutes the gunman spent inside. Robb Elementary School on May 24th before the police stormed the classroom and killed him. Two teachers also died in the massacre.
“People who were supposed to protect her at school didn’t,” 17-year-old Cazares said, sniffling. “They failed.”
Her testimony came just as… the US Supreme Court has announced a decision allowing a major expansion of gun rights, saying Americans have the right to carry firearms in public.
Cazares told a committee of lawmakers investigating how to prevent mass shootings that they could honor the victims by passing gun background checks and “red flag laws” that allow for the removal of firearms from people at extreme risk of harming themselves or others.
The gunman was a former student, Salvador Ramos, who bought the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle he used in the attack days after he turned 18.
The Republican-controlled Texas legislature has lifted gun restrictions in the past decade, even as the state has suffered a series of mass shootings that have killed more than 85 people in the past five years.
The state does not require a permit to carry a long rifle like the one used in Uvalde. Last year, lawmakers made it legal for anyone 21 and older to carry a gun in public without a license, background check or training.
Jacklyn loved to sing and dance and wanted to go to Paris when she graduated, her sister said. “She was one of the sweetest souls anyone would ever meet,” her sister said.
She and her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, were best friends and part of a close-knit quintet of classmates. All five died in the shooting.
Jacklyn’s big sister told lawmakers that since the massacre, she has been reviewing the security measures the school should have taken, including how teachers are told to keep their doors closed and locked at all times. “How, when some of those classroom doors didn’t lock?” she said.
Him and others parents got frustrated that the police did not do more to stop the shooter.
“Many of us argued with the police: ‘You all have to go in. You all have to do your job,’” said Cazares, an army veteran. “We were ready to get to work and rush in. .”
Those delays and errors in law enforcement’s response are now at the center of federal, state and local investigations. Texas State Police Chief This Week called it an “abject failure”, and said the police response went against everything learned in the two decades since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Officers with guns stood in a hallway for more than an hour, partially waiting for more weapons and equipment, before entering the classroom, said Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He put much of the blame for the delays on Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, whom McCraw said was the commander.
the school district put the police chief on administrative leave on Wednesday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said the facts of what happened remain unclear and he did not know when details of multiple investigations would be revealed.
Arredondo has said that he did not consider himself the boss and assumed someone else had taken control. He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The mayor of Uvalde has pushed McCraw’s blame onto Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Security has repeatedly released false information about the shooting and obscured the role of its own agents.
Stengle reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting