Op-Ed: Action, Not Just ‘Thoughts and Prayers,’ After Uvalde Shooting


Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas, 2015. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While the United States’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, the guns that it protects do far more harm than good. Tuesday’s school shooting is proof enough.

On Tuesday, a shooting shook Texas Robb Elementary School, and the rest of America felt it too. A shooter mercilessly killed nineteen children and two teachers, according to a report by CNN, which makes it the second deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. 

Police identified the shooter as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old. The report says he shot his grandmother before heading to the elementary school with two assault rifles. Ramos had posted pictures of the firearms and ammunition. Before the shooting, Ramos allegedly sent text messages to a girl in Europe who he had met online, describing how he had shot his grandmother and would “shoot a elementary school.” 

On the morning of May 24, the students were getting ready for end-of-year festivities. The students had been invited to wear “a nice outfit with fun fancy shoes” as a part of end-of-year celebrations. One of the celebrations included an honor roll award ceremony. The students of Robb Elementary had two days left in the school year. 

Again and again, our elected officials send their ‘thoughts and prayers’ to the communities impacted by gun violence in schools, but nothing actually changes.

Ramos entered the building with two rifles. “Please know at this time Robb Elementary is under a Lockdown Status due to gunshots in the area. The students and staff are safe in the building. The building is secure in a Lockdown Status,” the school posted on its Facebook page. Then they posted again, not even 30 minutes later: “There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary.” 

Once in the school, Ramos went down a hallway, turned right, then turned left, per the CNN report. He began to shoot children, teachers, and anyone in his way. The shooter barricaded himself into a classroom full of students. A 10-year-old girl, Amerie Jo Garza, called 9-1-1. She had just received her award for the school’s honor roll. She did not survive the shooting. Law enforcement forced their way into the classroom where the gunman was and shot him on site.  At around 9:30 p.m., officials started informing parents that their kids were dead.  

After numerous school shootings in the past few years, we know that teenagers do not decide on a whim to shoot up a school; there is a lead-up. Ramos had a few friends, but he was bullied and was a “loner.” Like many other school shooters, he had no criminal record, but he had purchased guns and ammunition.

His bullets made victims unrecognizable; officials had to use DNA to identify them. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the 1999 Columbine shooters, were bullied and had access to weapons just like Ramos. Still, in the 23 years since Columbine, the school shootings continue—Sandy Hook, Parkland, and dozens of others.

It is not just the shooter’s fault—it is a result of the society we live in. If someone posts something on social media that indicates they may not be mentally well, check on them. Perhaps May 24 might have gone differently. Nonetheless, we should not show school shooters any sympathy, and while they are to blame, more could and should be done to prevent such horrific travesties.

Poor mental health is a factor, but easily accessible guns allow mass shootings to be carried out. 

Families congregate outside the building, urging police to intervene, while the shooter remains inside. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our government seems to care more about Second Amendment rights than it does about protecting children in school from gun violence. Twenty-one people died because an 18-year-old could buy a semi-automatic rifle and hundreds of cartridges of ammunition. There was armed security at the school who could not stop the massacre. 

Again and again, our elected officials send their “thoughts and prayers” to the communities impacted by gun violence in schools, but nothing actually changes. Even after the massacre of 20 first-grade children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, not enough has changed. “Thoughts and prayers” are clearly ineffective.

Armed guards at schools do not stop these shootings. The “arm the teachers” method of protecting students would worsen the issue. We need our elected officials to propose and enact common-sense gun control legislation. We need background checks, licensing, waiting periods, red flag laws, a ban on automatic weapons, limits on ammunition purchased, and others. These measures would at least attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would commit such atrocities as indiscriminately shooting and killing dozens of children in their classrooms.

Twenty-one people died because an 18-year-old had access to two semi-automatic rifles. If people saw warning signs, 21 lives could have been saved. If U.S. law did not let 18-year-olds buy guns, 19 kids and two adults would get to live out the rest of their lives. 

We need to stop just feeling bad about gun violence—we must take action so it does not happen again.