The gunman who killed 21 people including 19 children at a school in Uvalde, Texas used two AR-15 assault rifles. Why, despite so many mass shootings, can you still buy military-style weapons in America?
At an elementary school in Uvalde Texas, fourth graders spent the morning at an end of year assembly, proudly collecting certificates before school let out for the summer.
Hours later, a gunman stormed into the school with two AR-15 assault weapons, which he used to kill 19 children and two teachers.
It’s hard to get your head around the horror of it.
Nineteen children, aged from eight to eleven years old.
This is the deadliest school shooting to have happened since 2012, when 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Twenty children died in that massacre.
That gunman also used an AR-15.
And in the days afterwards, the whole country mourned.
Flags flew at half mast.
And Barack Obama, who was president at the time, promised to stop something like this from ever happening again:
“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theatre in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”Barack Obama
In the wake of Sandy Hook, Barack Obama said he’d do everything in his power to press for stricter rules on gun ownership.
But a decade later, little has changed with America’s gun laws and the country has continued its love affair with one assault rifle in particular – the AR-15.
Since 2012, there have been more than 3,500 mass shootings in the United States, including dozens of school shootings.
“Good morning everyone we’re coming on the air with breaking news of a school shooting, with reports of multiple fatalities this time in Santa Fe, Texas.”NBC News
“That is the scene in Florida right now at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, scene of an active shooter situation.”ABC News
“We begin tonight with the horror playing out near Seattle, Washington, a school shooting, the suspect allegedly opening fire in the cafeteria.”ABC News
Some of those mass shootings have been the deadliest of all time.
“At least 58 people now dead, more than 500 people wounded in a horrific shooting on the Las Vegas Strip it’s the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history.”CNN
And before Uvalde, there was another mass shooting, just two weeks ago, by a white supremacist at a grocery store in Buffalo. An AR-15 assault rifle was used by that gunman too.
It’s been ten years since America said “never again” after Sandy Hook.
So how and why have mass shootings been allowed to continue?
Time and again, America’s worst mass shootings have been carried out using an inexpensive, military-style assault rifle that’s easy to use and deadly efficient.
It’s semi-automatic, which means it fires multiple shots in quick succession, and depending on where you live in America you can walk into a gun shop with a valid ID that proves you’re over 18, pass a federal background check, and buy one for as little as five hundred dollars.
Which is exactly what the Uvalde killer did.
Research on gun violence and mass shootings overwhelmingly shows that to stop it, there need to be fewer guns, and more control over who can buy them.
“The bipartisan compromise to expand background checks on guns just failed to break a Republican filibuster…it is a huge loss and a huge disappointment for Senator Joe Manchin and the Senator from Pennsylvania Pat Toomey.”CNN
“Four new gun control measures tabled in the wake of last week’s shooting in Orlando have failed to pass in the US senate.”Euronews
There have been plenty of efforts to bring in new nationwide laws to strengthen the checks on people buying guns.
Other bills have tried to make it illegal for people to buy assault weapons.
But most have failed to get through Congress.
After Sandy Hook, a bill that would’ve expanded criminal background checks and banned the sale of assault weapons was defeated in the Senate.
A few years later, after a terrorist shooting at a nightclub in Florida, four different pieces of gun control legislation were introduced.
All of them failed.
Assault weapons like the AR-15 are banned or restricted in some individual states, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland
But efforts to ban these military-style guns nationwide are often blocked by Republican politicians who are in thrall to the influential gun lobby… which promotes the AR15 as America’s rifle.
This was President Joe Biden speaking after the Uvalde shooting
“As a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”Joe Biden, MSNBC
The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups spend millions of dollars on adverts and other support for political candidates who oppose greater gun control.
Candidates like Republican senator Ted Cruz, who spoke to Sky News after the massacre
Cruz: “The proposals from Democrats and the media, inevitably, when some violent psychopath murders people.”
Stone: “A violent psychopath who is able to get a weapon so easily. 18 year-old with two AR-15s.”
Cruz: “If you want to stop violent crime the proposals the Democrats have, none of them would have stopped this.”Sky News
From 2010 to 2020, pro-gun groups spent 155 million dollars on political campaigning.
So politicians who vote in favour of gun control measures risk losing a powerful backer… which is why many don’t…
That’s despite one poll which suggests that 52 percent of Americans think there should be stricter gun laws and that 90 percent support tougher background checks.
It is possible for Republican politicians to support – and pass – gun control measures.
In the past few years, states with Republican governors like Vermont, Utah, Florida and Ohio have all passed new gun control laws.
But other states, including Texas, have been loosening their rules.
Republican politicians from Texas are some of the top-billed guest speakers at the NRA’s annual conference in Houston this weekend.
Texas governor Greg Abbot is due to speak and so is Senator Ted Cruz.
Donald Trump will also be there, but because he’s a former president guns will be banned during his speech. A protection not afforded to the children killed in Ulvade.
Today’s story was written by Ella Hill and mixed by Imy Harper.
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