The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022 somewhat changed the conversation about gun violence in America: 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed in one of the deadliest school shootings in the United States history.
But what made Uvalde’s attack extraordinary was not just the death toll. It was the fact that more than 370 officers from local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene, some standing in the school hallway, but allowing the gunman to hide with the students inside the school for 77 minutes before break in to kill him.
As a consequence, that left a host of questions, not only about laws governing access to guns, but also about police training, emergency responses, school safety and preparedness, and who ultimately would be responsible for a failure that occurred on so many levels. .
In the year since the attack, several people have quit or lost their jobs. New laws have been debated and some have been passed. Criminal investigations have been opened. Survivors have undergone months of physical therapy.
Those who did not survive have been buried.
Did any of that make another mass shooting less likely? In Uvalde people have had their doubts.
“It’s been almost a year and honestly nothing has changed,” Jesse Rizo, the uncle of one of the massacre victims, told the Uvalde school board in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Wednesday’s shooting.
The attack of May 24
The gunman climbed a low fence and entered the school through what turned out to be an open gate at around 11:30 a.m. that Tuesday, while students in the primarily targeted classrooms, rooms 111 and 112, were watching movies. . Within minutes, several officers, including Petty School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, arrived and followed the sound of gunshots into both classrooms. Two officers were grazed by bullets as they approached one of the classroom doors and backed away.
Arredondo made the decision to treat the situation not as an active shooting but as a barricaded incident, and the decision was made to wait until a heavily armed Border Patrol tactical team arrived with better equipment to storm the classroom. .
Steven McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, immediately blamed Arredondo for the delay, but a special report by the Texas House committee on the shooting found the failure to be “systemic,” noting that dozens of Officials were there and they didn’t act either, even when the children were calling 911 from inside the classrooms.
Would a faster police response have saved lives? There is still no clear answer to that question. The victims suffered horrific injuries and most appear to have died immediately. But some died on the way to hospital and, in a final footnote to the report, the committee concluded: “It is plausible that some victims might have survived if they had not had to wait” for rescue.
Several people have lost their jobs.
Arredondo was one of the first to go, when the school board voted unanimously in August to fire him, to the sound of cheers and applause from the packed school auditorium. Lawyers for Arredondo, who has said officers were reasonably focused on preventing the bloodshed from spreading to other classrooms, called his firing “an unconstitutional public lynching.”
The school district subsequently dismantled its entire police force, which consisted of five officers, and is still in the process of being revamped with new hires.
The city’s police force did not emerge unchanged either: The lieutenant who was in charge on May 24 while the police chief was on vacation, Mariano Pargas Jr., resigned in mid-November after 18 years on the force.
And amid pressure from the families of the 21 victims, Hal Harrell, the school superintendent, retired in the fall. He was succeeded in the interim by Gary Patterson, a former San Antonio superintendent.
Changes in gun laws
Texas has moved to expand access to firearms in the year since the shooting.
Months before the attack, Texas lawmakers removed permit requirements to carry weapons. After the attack, the state also effectively lowered the required age to carry a firearm from 21 to 18, once officials stopped defending the higher age limit in court in December.
There was a slight movement in the Legislature in early May, when a bill that would have raised the age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21 received a favorable vote in a House committee. The legislation would have possibly prevented the 18-year-old Uvalde gunman from buying the gun he used in the massacre.
But the bill missed a key deadline and did not receive a vote in the full Texas House of Representatives.
In other parts of the country, there has been a mixed record on proposed gun control laws from Uvalde, with access restricted or expanded depending on which party is in control.