A teenage gunman killed at least 19 young children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, prompting a furious President Joe Biden to denounce the US gun lobby and vow to end the nation’s cycle of mass shootings.
The attack in Uvalde – a small community about an hour from the Mexican border – was the deadliest US school shooting in years and the latest in a spree of bloody gun violence across America.
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“It’s time to turn this pain into action for every parent, for every citizen of this country,” Biden said, his voice heavy with emotion.
“It’s time for those who obstruct or delay or block common-sense gun laws – we need to let you know that we will not forget,” he said.
“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 will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, addressing an earlier news conference, named the suspect as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old local resident and a US citizen.
“He shot and killed, horrifically and incomprehensibly,” Abbott said.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials told CNN the gunman is believed to have shot his grandmother before heading to Robb Elementary School around noon where he abandoned his vehicle and entered with a handgun and a rifle, wearing body armour.
Over a dozen children wounded
The gunman was killed by responding officers, the officials said, adding later two teachers also died in the attack.
“Right now there are 19 children that were killed by this evil gunman, as well as two teachers from this school,” DPS spokesman Lieutenant Chris Olivarez told NBC News.
Fourth-grade teacher, Eva Mireles, was shot and killed while trying to protect her students, her aunt Lydia Martinez Delgado told the New York Times.
“I’m furious that these shootings continue, these children are innocent, rifles should not be easily available to all,” she said in a separate statement to US media.
More than a dozen children were also wounded in the attack at the school, which teaches more than 500, mostly Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital said on Facebook it had received 13 children while University Health hospital in San Antonio said on Twitter it had received a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl, both in critical condition, and two other girls aged nine and 10.
At least, one border patrol agent responding to the incident was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the shooter, Department of Homeland Security’s spokeswoman, Marsha Espinosa, tweeted.
Footage showed small groups of children weaving through parked cars and yellow buses, some holding hands as they fled under police escort from the school, which teaches students aged around seven to 10 years old.
It was the deadliest such incident since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed.
The White House ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in mourning for the victims – whose deaths sent a wave of shock through a country still scarred by the horror of Sandy Hook.