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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arrives at a memorial service in Uvalde

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a memorial site in Uvalde, Texas on May 29, 2022. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Need Change, Governor!' Abbott Booed at Uvalde Memorial Site

"Shame on you, Abbott!" people shouted at the Republican governor, an NRA ally who has overseen and supported the further erosion of Texas' gun laws.

Jake Johnson

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was met with boos Sunday as he arrived at a memorial site for victims of the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, which sparked a nationwide wave of grief and anger over lawmakers' persistent—and industry-funded—inaction on gun violence.

"We need change, governor!" yelled one member of a crowd gathered at Robb Elementary School as Abbott, a Republican who just two days earlier delivered video remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual convention, arrived at the site.

"Shame on you, Abbott!" others shouted at the governor, who has overseen and approved the GOP-dominated state legislature's further weakening of Texas' gun regulations in recent years even in the wake of deadly shootings.

The Texas Tribune noted last week that "in the last two legislative sessions, Texas legislators have loosened gun laws, most notably by passing permitless carry in 2021, less than two years after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa took the lives of 30 people."

Annual child gun deaths in Texas have more than doubled during Abbott's tenure.

Recycling the well-worn talking point that mental illness is the primary driver of gun violence, Abbott has signaled following the Uvalde massacre—the deadliest school shooting in Texas history—that he has no intention of supporting proposals such as those put forth in recent days by Democrats in the state Senate.

The Democratic lawmakers are pushing the governor to call an emergency legislative session—something he has done to attack voting rights—and endorse passage of laws raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, requiring universal background checks for gun purchases, restricting ownership of high-capacity magazines, and other changes.

"Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade than any other state," all 13 members of Texas' Senate Democratic caucus wrote in a letter to Abbott over the weekend. "In Sutherland Springs, 26 people died. At Santa Fe High School outside Houston, 10 people died. In El Paso, 23 people died at a Walmart. Seven people died in Midland-Odessa."

"After each of these mass killings, you have held press conferences and roundtables promising things would change," the lawmakers continued. "After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never rung more hollow. The time to take real action is now."

The parents of children killed in Uvalde have echoed that message. 

Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter was among the 21 victims, told the New York Times last week that she and her husband declined an invitation to meet with Abbott, citing his opposition to basic and broadly popular gun-safety measures.

"We live in this really small town in this red state, and everyone keeps telling us, you know, that it's not the time to be political, but it is—it is," Rubio said. "Don't let this happen to anybody else."

People gathered in Uvalde on Sunday also demanded action at the federal level, where Republican lawmakers and right-wing Democrats have obstructed gun-control legislation for years.

"Do something!" onlookers shouted at President Joe Biden as he departed a mass service in the grieving Texas city.

Gun control advocates have accused the president of offering little more than platitudes in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, which spurred limited bipartisan talks in Congress that—like similar legislative efforts over the past decade—are likely to end in failure amid near-unanimous GOP opposition.

Two Democrats in the Senate—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—are refusing to drop their support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster, meaning at least 10 Republican votes are needed in the chamber to pass a gun control bill.

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