Democrats lashed out on Tuesday after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republican officials offered prayers and called for more guns in schools following the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, even though police say law enforcement engaged the gunman but could not stop the teenage shooter from killing at least 19 children and two teachers.
Many Republicans who have supported the National Rifle Association offered typical "thoughts" and "prayers" after police said 18-year-old Salvador Ramos killed at least 21 people using an AR-15-style rifle he reportedly purchased online after his birthday. Cruz and other Texas officials, who have vehemently resisted any gun safety legislation, offered alternative solutions to gun control after the massacre.
"We know from past experience that the most effective tool for keeping kids safe is armed law enforcement on the campus," Cruz told reporters after the shooting. "Inevitably after a murder of this kind you see politicians try to politicize it. You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. That doesn't work," he argued.
Other Texas officials had similar proposals. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called to "harden targets" like schools. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who won his primary runoff hours after the shooting, called for arming teachers.
"We can't stop bad people from doing bad things," he told Fox News. "We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly. That, in my opinion, is the best answer."
But police say that armed cops engaged the shooter but failed to stop the massacre. Police say Ramos shot his grandmother and drove to the school, crashing his pickup truck, before he was engaged by officers.
"The suspect did crash near a ditch nearby the school. That's where he exited his vehicle with what I believe was a rifle and that's when he attempted to enter the school where he was engaged by law enforcement," Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Erick Estrada told CNN. But officers were unable to stop the gunman, who Estrada said was wearing body armor, from entering the school to shoot young children. Houston's KPRC later reported that the shooter actually appeared only to wear a plate carrier with no ballistic armor inside when he exchanged gunfire with officers.
The suspect, who was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, appears to have "outgunned" the armed officers before making his way into the school, ABC News reported.
Cruz, whose solution clearly did not work at Uvalde — the site of the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history and the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history — offered little else than prayers for the victims and praise for law enforcement for "acting so swiftly" before his scheduled appearance at an NRA convention in Houston on Friday.
"Aren't you slated to headline a speaking gig for the NRA in three days — in Houston, no less?," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted in response to Cruz's prayers. "You can do more than pray. Faith without works is dead."
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., had a more forceful response.
"Fuck you @ted cruz you care about a fetus but you will let our children get slaughtered. Just get your ass to Cancun. You are useless," he tweeted. "Just to be clear fuck you @tedcruz you fucking baby killer," he added.
The comments underscored frustration among Democrats who have unsuccessfully called for gun safety legislation for years following mass shootings, only to be blocked by lawmakers aligned with the gun lobby. Meanwhile, an FBI report released Monday showed that the number of active shooter attacks increased to 61 last year, a 52% increase from 2020 and a 97% increase from 2017. An analysis released earlier this month showed that guns now kill more children and young adults than car crashes for the first time.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a leading proponent of gun legislation since the Sandy Hook massacre in his state in 2012, literally begged Republicans to compromise on gun safety during a Senate speech shortly after the shooting.
"What are we doing?" Murphy said. "Why are we here if not to try and make sure fewer schools and few communities go through what Sandy Hook has gone through, what Uvalde is going through. … I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely."
President Joe Biden, in a speech after the massacre, called out gun rights groups' hold over the GOP and conservative members of the Democratic Party.
"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 know in our gut needs to be done?" he demanded, noting that mass shootings "tripled" after the federal assault weapons ban expired without action from Congress.
Biden, who just returned from a trip to Asia, added that these kinds of mass shootings "rarely happen anywhere else in the world."
"Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why?" he said. "Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God's name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbies?"
Murphy told CBS News that he spoke with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., about a potential bipartisan solution on "red flag" laws and background check proposals. But the GOP and Manchin, who have received ample contributions from the gun lobby, have long resisted more aggressive measures. Democrats have called for repeal or reform of the Senate filibuster to pass gun legislation, but Manchin rejected the idea despite the school shooting.
"You all know where I stand; I'll do anything I can," he told reporters before moments later acknowledging he would not budge on the filibuster to pass gun legislation. "The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity," he said. "Total insanity."