Uvalde Residents Reckon With Gun Violence in Their Community
YouIn Uvalde’s Town Square, Texas 21 crosses are displayed in rows. Each cross bears the name of the victim killed in the attack on Robb Elementary School, May 24, 2017. They’re about two feet high, with baby blue, heart-shaped plaques glued to the top. Each one is attached on a string with Sharpies pens so that members of the community may leave messages of love and condolences.
“I will always love you my beautiful granddaughter” is written on the memorial for Layla Salazar, a 10-year-old victim of the shooting. It’s signed “Grandmom.”
The scene may be heartbreaking but it is also very relatable to Latino Texans. It’s reminiscent of the homemade crosses bearing names that people gathered around in El Paso, Texas, after a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart on August 10, 2019 in the deadliest attack on Latinos in recent U.S. history.
People in Uvalde gathered to pray for El Paso after that shooting. Sue Rankin is a Uvalde native of seven years and participated in a prayer group three years back. People in neighboring communities now pray for Uvalde. “We never thought this would happen here,” Rankin says. “I see so many people coming together.”
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Though so far there have not been any indications that the shooter’s actions were racially motivated, most of the victims in the Uvalde shooting were Latinos. According to data from Uvalde Consolidated independent School District, nearly 90% of Robb Elementary School students are Latinos. According to data from Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, over 4,100 Latinos are killed each year by gun violence in America. They are twice as likely to become victims of gun homicide than people of other races and four times more likely than people who are white to be injured by guns. Everytown For Gun Safety is a non-profit organization which advocates stricter gun control and investigates gun violence. The impact of gun violence upon Latinos is second to that of American Blacks.
Multiple members of Uvalde’s community feel their town has always been a safe place, despite the El Paso massacre and other shootings that occurred in Texas in recent years. But Tuesday’s violence is now forcing a reckoning among some Uvalde residents over the gun laws in Texas, which are some of the most permissive in the country.
“Canada doesn’t have school shootings, the UK hasn’t had a shooting since it enacted gun control laws…and there were red flags going up all over the place for this [shooter],” says Robert Dennis, who was born and raised in Uvalde and says he has always supported owning guns. “My ideas about gun ownership are changing.” Dennis went to the center of town to write “You will be missed” on each of the 21 memorials Thursday morning.
Uvalde, according to Sofia Aguilar, is quiet despite its pervasive hunting culture, and the popularity of guns. Aguilar stated that she would support stricter gun control laws. “I’m very distraught,” she says. “People are buying guns to hurt other people.” Aguilar knew one of the victims, 10-year-old Jacklyn Cazares. She wept when she found Jacklyn’s cross in Town Square.
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Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald “Ronnie” Garza, who attended Robb Elementary as a kid, says he was also shocked that violence of this nature would take place in Uvalde. “Like any small town, we’ll have an incident here or there, but this is just tragic,” Garza says. He calls on Texas officials for stricter gun controls, including background checks and age restrictions. “The current system isn’t working,” he says. “Something has to be done. We can’t accept the status quo.”
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