Uvalde families protest outside Greg Abbott’s house calling to raise minimum age to buy AR-15

Families of the victims of the Uvalde mass shooting staged a protest outside Greg Abbott’s house on Saturday, calling on the Texas governor to raise the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old.

Grieving parents, siblings and other family members gathered in front of the governor’s mansion in downtown Austin from around 5.15am that morning, holding aloft photos of their loved ones lost in the 24 May massacre.

The crowd shouted the names of the 19 students, aged nine to 11 years old, and two heroic teachers killed in the shooting into a bullhorn. Others also blared the gutwrenching sound of their children’s voices happily laughing and playing in recordings made before their murders.

The rally comes as family members and the wider Uvalde community are growing increasingly frustrated with the governor’s failure to take meaningful action more than three months on from the massacre.


On 24 May, 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde armed with an AR-15 and murdered 21 innocent students and staff members.

The killer legally purchased the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack just days earlier – thanks to Texas’ lax gun laws.

The previous year, 17-year-old Ramos had asked family members to help him buy a firearm because he was underage and so was unable to do so. They refused.

But, then on 16 May, Ramos turned 18 and so was then able to legally purchase his own firearms in the state of Texas.

Over the next week, he purchased two semi-automatic rifles from gun stores in the state as well as 375 rounds of ammunition.

Eight days after his 18th birthday, he used one of the firearms to carry out one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

Since the massacre, calls have been growing to raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21 – something that could have prevented the massacre in Uvalde.

Families, the Uvalde city council and state lawmakers have urged Mr Abbott to call a special session of the state legislature where new gun laws can be considered.

But three months on from the shooting, Mr Abbott – a longtime NRA ally who is up for reelection in November – has shown no willingness to do so.

Uvalde families and community members hold a protest in the Texas capital on Saturday (Xinhua/Shutterstock)
Uvalde families and community members hold a protest in the Texas capital on Saturday (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

The rally on Saturday was organised with the gun reform group March for Our Lives – which was set up by student survivors in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hundreds of protesters joined the Uvalde families outside the governor’s house and then on the steps of the state capitol in Austin, listening to the devastating stories of those who had lost loved ones to gun violence.

Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah died in the 24 May massacre, shouted into a bullhorn for Mr Abbott to hear that the recordings are “all we have left” of their children.

“These are the voices of our children!” he said. “This is all we have left because you don’t give a damn!”

“The age needs to be raised to 21. Our kids would still be alive,” he told HuffPost.

Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jackie was killed in the massacre, said surviving children are now in fear that they could be next.

“Our kids are going back to school and asking, ‘Will I be next?’” she said.

Maggie Mireles Thomas, the sister of teacher Eva Mireles who was killed in Robb Elementary, said her sibling had no chance against the gunman with an AR-15.

Protesters call for Gov Greg Abbott to call a special legislature to raise the minimum age (Xinhua/Shutterstock)
Protesters call for Gov Greg Abbott to call a special legislature to raise the minimum age (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

“My sister leaves behind her only child, who has to go on without her,” she said.

“Eva was strong. She could have taken [the shooter] ― but not with this weapon.”

The demonstrators demanded action from the governor and vowed that – if he continues to ignore them – they will make their voices heard at the ballot box instead.

When asked if the governor supports raising the minimum age, his office instead pointed the HuffPost reporter to his efforts around school safety and mental health.

“As Governor Abbott has said from day one, all options remain on the table as he continues working with state and local leaders to prevent future tragedies and deploy all available resources to support the Uvalde community as they heal,” the spokesperson said.

“More announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks as the legislature deliberates proposed solutions.”

Texas has some of the most lax gun laws across the whole of America and, since he took office, Mr Abbott has loosened them further.

Last year, he signed a new law allowing Texans to carry handguns without a licence. At the signing ceremony, he was flanked by NRA officials.

This week, attorneys representing victims’ families also announced plans to file a sweeping $27bn class action lawsuit against multiple law enforcement agencies, the school district and the manufacturer of the gun used in the attack.

Civil rights attorney Charles Bonner said on Monday that he plans to sue anyone who holds some responsibility for the 24 May massacre including the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, gunmaker Daniel Defense which made the AR-15 used to murder the 21 victims and gun store Oasis Outback where Ramos was able to legally purchase it.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the memorial at the school (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the memorial at the school (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

It will also include all of the different law enforcement agencies who responded to the scene of the mass shooting including the Department of Public Safety, Uvalde School Police and Uvalde City Police.

The huge lawsuit – which will also involve gun safety organisation Everytown – is expected to be filed in September after the US Justice Department releases the findings of its investigation into the massacre.

Several separate probes have been launched into the failings that day.

Last month, the Texas House committee investigating the massacre released its bombshell report where it slammed the “lackadaisical approach” of law enforcement and cited failings from almost all authorities involved that day.

The Texas House committee’s 77-page report revealed that a staggering 376 law enforcement officers descended on Robb Elementary School to respond to what became the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

Among them was 149 US Border Patrol, 91 state police, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s deputies and five Uvalde school police officers.

The remaining were federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers, US Marshals and police officers who responded from neighbouring counties.

In the damning report, the law enforcement response was described as “chaos” where there was no clear leadership and officers on the scene “failed to prioritise saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety”.

“There was an overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement at the scene. For many, that was because they were given and relied upon inaccurate information. For others, they had enough information to know better,” the report states.

As a result, a staggering 77 minutes passed from the time when Ramos entered the school at 11.33am and began shooting innocent victims to the time when an elite Border Patrol unit finally breached the classroom and shot him dead at 12.50pm.

Salvador Ramos seen on surveillance footage entering Robb Elementary School on 24 May (via REUTERS)
Salvador Ramos seen on surveillance footage entering Robb Elementary School on 24 May (via REUTERS)

Damning surveillance footage shows dozens of armed officers standing in the hallways outside the classroom failing to take action.

The Texas House committee report stated that it was “plausible” that the lengthy delay in taking action cost the lives of some of the victims bleeding out inside the room.

One teacher died of her injuries in an ambulance while three children died after reaching hospital.

To date, only two law enforcement officers are known to have faced any disciplinary action over the bungled law enforcement response.

Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the on-site commander of the incident, has shouldered much of the blame as he failed to send law enforcement officers into the classroom to confront the gunman.

He was finally fired from his role on Wednesday.

In July, Acting Chief of the Uvalde Police Lt Mariano Pargas was also suspended after the Texas House committee report found that the department disregarded its own active shooting training that day.

The Uvalde City Council has also announced its own investigation into every single one of the 25 Uvalde Police Department officers who responded to the shooting.

The city council investigation is expected to take around two months.