O’Rourke confronts Abbott in Uvalde: ‘It’s on you until you choose to do something’

·3 min read
Jae C. Hong/AP

Beto O’Rourke was escorted out of a press conference Wednesday as Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas leaders addressed the school shooting in Uvalde that left at least 21 people dead.

The press conference included Republicans Abbott, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Abbott thanked law enforcement officials and said that although the incident was horrific, it could have been worse if police had not responded as quickly as they did.

When Abbott was going to pass the microphone to Patrick, O’Rourke stood in front of the speakers and said they’re doing nothing to prevent gun violence.

“This is totally predictable,” said O’Rourke, a Democrat and former U.S. representative from El Paso who faces Abbott in the November election for governor.

A battle of words ensued between O’Rourke and another individual on the stage who demanded that O’Rourke leave.

“This isn’t the place to talk this over,” the individual said.

The mass shooting is one of several in Texas in recent years, including attacks at a church in Sutherland Springs, a high School in Santa Fe, a Walmart in El Paso and in the Midland-Odessa area.

Responding to the shootings, there have been calls for Texas to do more to prevent mass shootings and tighten gun laws, but the Texas Legislature has largely loosened laws related to access to firearms.

Cruz, who also told O’Rourke to sit down during the presser, received criticism after the shooting because he received more than $300,000 in campaign donations from gun lobbyists during his last senatorial campaign in 2018.

“It’s on you until you choose to do something,” he said.

The gunman had warned in online messages minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to shoot up a school, Abbott said Wednesday.

Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the bloodshed Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that ended with police storming a classroom and killing him. He had legally bought two such rifles just days before, soon after his birthday, authorities said.

Investigators shed no light on the motive for the attack, which also left 17 people wounded. Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 85 miles west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.

But about 30 minutes before the bloodbath, Ramos sent three messages online, Abbott said. Ramos wrote in the first that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then that he had shot the woman, and finally that he was going to shoot up an elementary school, according to Abbott. It was not clear whether Ramos specified which school.

“Evil swept across Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart,” Abbott said at a news conference. “But it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids.”

The private one-to-one text messages were sent to another user via Facebook and “discovered after the terrible tragedy,” company spokesman Andy Stone said. He said Facebook is cooperating with investigators.

Amid calls around the U.S. for tighter restrictions on firearms, Abbott repeatedly talked about mental health struggles among Texas young people and brought up laws in New York, Chicago and California to argue that tougher gun laws don’t prevent violence.

This story contains information from The Associated Press.