On May 24, an 18-year-old male barged into Robb Elementary School and murdered 19 schoolchildren and two teachers with an AR-style rifle. The perpetrator was killed by a tactical team of border guards 77 minutes after the shooting began. 18 others were injured during the shooting spree.
During his testimony, the senator called on lawmakers to “ban the chosen weapon of these school shooters.”
Gutierrez referred to actions by police on the day of the Uvalde massacre as “the worst law enforcement response to one of the worst school shootings in our nation’s history.”
“As policymakers, you and I have to grapple with how much loss of life is acceptable in relation to someone’s freedom to obtain and carry a weapon that can inflict so much damage,” he said. “I have to believe that we as lawmakers can solve this problem, because the alternative is just too evil to contemplate.”
Gutierrez lambasted the amount of time it took before law enforcement officers entered the classroom to kill the shooter.
“Police waited outside for 77 minutes while children lay dying, wounded, waiting for help that would not come. They were injured, huddled on the classroom floor. Children called the police as the gunman taunted them to see if they were dead or alive,” Gutierrez said.
“Brave little girls called 911 while law enforcement waited outside just a few feet away. Not one law enforcement official took control inside or outside of that building.”
Gutierrez also criticized Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) over the faulty radio system used by Uvalde school district police officers.
“It is worth noting that this community asked the sitting governor of Texas, directly and through the Department of Public Safety, for money to fix the radio system years prior to this massacre,” the senator said. “It’s the same radio system that the director of the Department of Public Safety acknowledged in a hearing in the Texas Senate needed replacing.”
Gutierrez referenced DPS Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to order law enforcement to “standby” as a tactical team of border patrol agents were about to enter the classroom to confront the gunman. Betancourt is one of the officers under investigation regarding his response to the shooting.
DPS Director Steve McCraw testified this summer that the law enforcement response was an “abject failure” and did not follow widely accepted guidelines for responding to mass shootings. A committee in the Texas House published a report this summer detailing failures of law enforcement on the day of the shooting.
Gutierrez introduced a bill in November to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to those directly impacted by the shooting.
The Texan has reached out to Abbott’s office for a statement regarding Gutierrez’s comments about the radio system, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
In October, at the request of the Legislative Budget Board, Abbott redirected $400 million for bolstering safety measures at public schools in the Lone Star State, including improvements to communications systems and building security.
The governor marked another $15 million for the construction of another elementary school in Uvalde. The site of the May 24 shooting will be demolished.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."