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Texas school massacre: 19 children, 2 adults shot dead in one classroom by heavily armed youth

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Houston:  In one of the worst school shootings in the US, an 18-year-old gunman in body armour massacred at least 21 people, including 19 children and two adults inside one classroom at a Texas elementary school, prompting President Joe Biden to issue an emotional appeal to lawmakers to “turn this pain into action” to enact tougher gun laws to curb such recurring tragedies.

The youth opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde town, Texas, 134 km from San Antonio, on Tuesday morning before he was killed by law enforcement officers.

All fatalities and injuries took place inside one classroom Uvalde, according to Lt. Chris Olivarez, spokesperson for the Texas Department for Public Safety.

The shooter barricaded himself in one room, killing two teachers and 19 children, he told CNN.

“Just goes to show you the complete evil from this shooter,” Olivarez said, just 10 days since 10 people were killed in a mass shooting in New York.

All the victims have been removed, identified and their families have been notified, the lieutenant said. Multiple children were wounded inside the classroom, according to Olivarez, but there is no exact number as to how many at this time.

“It’s a small classroom, you can have anywhere from 25 to 30 students in there, plus there were two teachers in there. … So don’t have exact number of how many students were in that classroom,” Olivarez said.

When asked if the school was a target, Olivarez said there are still “a lot of unanswered questions.”

Investigators say the suspect was armed with a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott identified the killer as Salvador Ramos, a resident of the area where the school was located. The shooter’s motive remains unclear.

The teenager is suspected of shooting his grandmother at the start of the rampage, US media reports said.

Chief of Police, Uvalde, Pete Arredondo said the “mass casualty event occurred at Robb Elementary School at about 11:32 this morning”. He said the killer acted as a lone wolf – who was shot dead in a police exchange.

The deceased children are in the second, third and fourth grades – aged between 7 years and 10 years, he said.

People in the largely Hispanic neighbourhood sat outside their homes after the shooting, some with their families while others gathered with neighbours.

In a prime-time address on Tuesday, a visibly emotional Biden asked what it would take to convince fellow lawmakers that “it’s time to act.”

President Biden again tried to comfort a nation grieving after a mass shooting, urging action to counter powerful gunmakers and repeatedly questioning why the country he leads lacks “the backbone” to stem the bloodshed.

“How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened — seen their friends die as if they’re on a battlefield, for god’s sake,” said Biden. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest.”

Turning to the issue of gun control legislation, Biden implored lawmakers to “turn this pain into action” as he ticked through some of the mass shootings since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when he was vice president.

“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage,” he said, asking: “Why do we keep letting this happen?”

“Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?” he said.

In Uvalde, all schools were locked once the gunshots were heard.

Texas Governor Abbott said he had instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with the local law enforcement to investigate the shooting.

Officials said the city’s civic centre was being used as a reunification centre where the kin of victims can procure information from the state and coordinate other functions.

The shooting stoked the fiery debate on gun control.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said teachers should be armed to stop such incidents in the future.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz described the Uvalde shooting as “truly horrific”, but said gun reforms were not the way to prevent such crimes.

Speaking to reporters, he said that restricting the rights of “law-abiding citizens… doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”

He said “going after felons” is what prevents such crimes and he criticised other politicians for trying to “advance their own political agenda” by calling for gun control.

He added that from past experience, armed law enforcement on campus is the most effective way of keeping children safe.

“We don’t know the details of what happened at Robb Elementary School, but there will be a lot of time to examine what steps could have been taken proactively to enhance the safety and security of the school right now,” he said.

There have so far been at least 212 mass shootings in the US in 2022, according to the nonprofit organisation Gun Violence Archive. This means there have been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in 2022, CNN reported.

CNN and the GVA define a mass shooting as a shooting that injured or killed four or more people, not including the shooter.

Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvald is the second-deadliest school shooting since 2012, when 26 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

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