Mar 01, 2023

Hundreds of Protesters and Families of Uvalde Victims, Rally at Capitol Against Gun Violence

Reporting Texas

Anti-gun violence advocates rally at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Laura Miguel/Reporting Texas

Families of victims of the Uvalde shooting  joined hundreds of protestors to advocate for laws aimed at preventing violence at the Capitol Tuesday.

Caitlyne Gonzales, 10, spoke about her experience the day of the shooting at Robb elementary in Uvalde.

“He wobbled the doorknob, he banged on my door, he shot at my door and a bullet went over my head,” Gonzales said. “I remember hearing my best friend scream and I remembered hugging her that morning.”

“I shouldn’t have to be here right now, but I am because my friends don’t have a voice no more,” Gonzales said. 

Protestors marched from a downtown Baptist Church to the Capitol, and chanted “raise the age,”  “don’t be silent, end gun violence,” and “21 for 21” — a reference to both the 21 victims of the Uvalde shooting and a desire to raise the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

Caitlyne Gonzales, a 10-year-old survivor of the Uvalde school shooting leads chants during a march to the Capitol on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Laura Miguel/Reporting Texas

Texas has had some of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States and leads the nation in gun-related deaths.

More than 4,100 people died gun-related deaths in 2020 – from suicides, homicides and mass shootings — according to the most recent numbers from Center for Disease Control and Prevention. During the past five years, prominent mass shootings have taken place in several Texas cities — Santa Fe in 2018, El Paso and Midland-Odessa in 2019, and Uvalde in 2022.

“As ugly as this might sound, this is going to happen again in some communities in Texas,” said Sen. Ronald Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. 

Anti-gun violence advocates rally at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Laura Miguel/Reporting Texas

“Greg Abbott and people like him refuse to do the bare minimum to safeguard our citizens, to safeguard our children, it is all we are asking for,” Gutierrez said.

In response to mass shooting at Sante Fe High School in the Houston Area in 2018, Abbott signed a bill into law that allows school districts to arm as many teachers and school personnel as they deem appropriate. 

“We are proud to have responded to one of the most horrific days in the state of Texas,” the Republican governor said during a press conference after signing the measure.

Gun rights advocates hailed the move, while critics said it would do little to make students safer and legislators should instead make it harder for people to bring guns into schools.

“[We need to] do something to make it harder for an 18-year-old to access an AR-15 just as easily as he can access a slurpee at 7-eleven,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez has filed several gun-related bills this legislative session. The measures would make it easier for authorities to take guns from people at “high risk” of harming themselves or others, raise the age limit from 18 to 21 to buy military-style semi-automatic weapons like the one used in the Uvalde shooting, and compensate victims and families affected by the Uvalde shooting. 

“The main push for today is to raise the age to 21 and remember the 21 families,” said  John Lira, a Democrat who ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, which included Uvalde.

“We want accountability for those who were there who had responsibilities and fail[ed] the families,” Lira said, referencing the criticism of the slow response from police and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel during the Uvalde shooting. 

Sen. Roland Gutierrez speaks during an anti-gun violence rally at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Laura Miguel/Reporting Texas

Arnulfo Reyes, a teacher at Robb Elementary who survived the shooting, hopes that there will be common sense gun laws that will be established to save children’s lives and not go through tragedy that causes so much pain.

“I come here today to let the governor know that expanding guns into schools will not make it safer,” Reyes said. “As teachers, our focus is to keep students out of harm’s way, but a teacher bringing a gun to school will make it feel like a war zone.”

Almost 77% of teachers do not want to be armed to confront a shooter at their school, according to a survey done by Texas American Federation of Teachers a week after the Uvalde school shooting,

“As my community and I continue to piece together a million pieces of this puzzle, it’s sad to know that there will always be 21 pieces missing to our puzzle that will never be home,” Reyes said. “I implore you to stand with me and be the voice for those whose voices were robbed from them.” 

The Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots volunteer network that works to end gun violence, had a large presence at the event.

“Everyone here is united in the desire for more gun safety in our state,” said Claudia Yanez, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action Texas. “Representatives should take action now and prevent the next Uvalde.”

Yanez also wants lawmakers to raise the gun purchase age to 21 and to fund gun violence intervention programs.

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, and Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, also spoke at the event.

“We representatives stand with you in the desire to get some common sense gun safety legislation to pass,” Goodwin told the crowd.