People mourn in the wake of the Texas elementary school shooting. | William Luther/AP
WASHINGTON—After the latest gun massacre in a school, this time at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, teachers unions, Democratic President Joe Biden and gun control groups are again demanding legislative crackdowns on guns.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” an upset Biden, a longtime senatorial crusader for gun control, asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
The short answer to Biden’s second question: The still-powerful and notorious gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. That key component of the radical right is holding its convention this coming weekend in Houston. Planned speakers include Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Biden’s Republican Oval Office predecessor, Donald Trump.
The most-vehement statement about the Uvalde slaughter came from Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. The 18-year-old shooter, Salvador Ramos, bought guns just after his birthday and murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School before a police SWAT team killed him.
“Some things are clear: These are despicable acts of hatred designed to terrorize us all,” said Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher and crusader for much-stricter gun controls. “Buffalo and now Uvalde will join a long list of places that will never be the same. Our hearts are with all of them.
That list includes Parkland, Fla., where Nikolas Cruz, then 19, gunned down three AFT-member teachers and 14 students at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, on Valentine’s Day, 2018, and Newtown, Conn., where another gunman murdered 20 students and six teachers years before.
Newtown’s tragedy gave rise to Everytown for Gun Safety, while the Parkland massacre produced the student-led March For Our Lives. A third shooting, of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and several constituents during a meet-and-greet in her district, produced a third anti-gun group. All of those groups denounced the murders, mourned the victims and recommitted themselves to the gun control cause.
“Only in America do people go grocery shopping and get mowed down by a shooter with hate in his heart; only in this country are parents not assured their kids will be safe at school,” Weingarten added.
“Gun violence is a cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer. We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, an Electrical Worker, tweeted, in part: “Gun violence is horrific & preventable and meaningful action is needed now,” without being specific.
“This tragedy once again underscores the very real dangers of a culture in which gun violence has become too much the norm and is too often the first way to resolve an argument or a grievance,” National Education Association President Becky Pringle and Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said in a joint statement.
“We pray for the victims and their families, and we once again demand state and federal policymakers take action to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, whether that requires enacting new laws or better enforcing our existing laws.”
“It is up to all of us to find solutions that stop the spread of white supremacist politics and ideology that has aided and abetted the violence and bloodshed that have ripped this nation apart. We stand ready to work in coalition and cooperation with others to continue the fight,” National Nurses United President Jean Ross, RN, said after grocery store carnage days before in Buffalo and before the Uvalde massacre. Her union’s RNs see gun violence victims daily.
The Democratic-run House passed several gun control measures earlier in this Congress, but they’re likely to founder in the evenly split Senate, given the roadblock of the filibuster. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky summed up his party’s attitude by a “thoughts and prayers” tweet with nary a word about gun control legislation.
Police were still investigating Ramos’s motives for the Uvalde massacre. Former close friends of Ramos told reporters that within the last year-plus Ramos had taken a dark turn towards violence in online postings. They also reported he injured himself, with a knife.
Besides the students and teachers he killed, Ramos wounded others at the school, after wounding his grandmother at her home beforehand. Those victims were flown to hospitals. Several were in serious condition.
Robb’s mass shooting was the second such massacre in fewer than two weeks, following one by an anti-Black gunman at the Buffalo grocery store killing ten people and wounding three.
Senate Democrats split between lamentations about the filibuster roadblock and supporting efforts by Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to force votes on gun control.
“The breakdown of the political process has never been clearer. When we can’t even act to keep our own children safe,” an upset Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said. “ Is it worth taking a vote? Even if you don’t have 10 Republicans? Is it worth taking a vote? That’s the part that’s so frustrating.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has made gun control a crusade ever since Newtown, is still trying to talk ten of the Senate’s 50 Republicans into backing gun control legislation. But even he admitted to MSNBC that “what’s possible is much smaller than what we need to do to protect kids.”
The Republicans, especially Texans, are another matter. In a recent campaign tweet, Gov. Abbott said he was “EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.” The capital letters are his.
On party-line votes, the Republican-dominated Texas legislature spent much of its recent session enacting bills to remove gun controls in the Lone Star State. And Trump and Abbott will address the NRA convention in Houston. Pro-gun GOP Sen. Ted Cruz reiterated his stand after the Uvalde massacre, but withdrew from a speaking commitment to the NRA. He pleaded “a scheduling conflict.”
Still, the carnage in Texas and the contrasting partisan attitudes to it point out the thin margin gun control backers have in the Democratic-run House—and the complete Republican roadblock in the Senate. That in turn adds yet another issue, along with abortion and worker rights, as reasons to elect progressive candidates this fall.
One hopeful sign: Gun control backers won in Georgia’s Democratic primary on May 25. In an incumbent-versus-incumbent faceoff due to Republican gerrymandering, Democratic Rep, Lucy McBath, who first ran several years ago on a strong gun-control platform after her son was murdered, defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux, who is more “moderate” on the issue.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.
People’s World, May 25, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/