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Sister of Uvalde victim pleads for gun safety measures

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AUSTIN, Texas — The sister of a nine-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school shooting tearfully pleaded with Texas lawmakers on Thursday for tougher gun laws and wondered why so many security measures had failed.

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‘I’m here to beg you to do something,’ said Jazmin Cazares, whose younger sister Jacklyn was one of 19 children shot dead in the 80 minutes the shooter was inside the elementary school. Robb on May 24 before police stormed the classroom and killed him. Two teachers also died in the massacre.

“The people who were supposed to keep him safe at school didn’t,” Cazares, 17, said, sniffling. “They missed.”

His testimony came just as the U.S. Supreme Court announced a ruling allowing a major expansion of gun rights, saying Americans have the right to carry guns in public.

Cazares told a committee of lawmakers seeking to prevent mass shootings that they could honor victims by passing gun background checks and “red flag laws” that allow the removal of guns from people. presenting an extreme risk of injury to themselves or others.

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The shooter was a former student, Salvador Ramos, who days after turning 18 bought the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle he used in the attack.

The Republican-controlled legislature in Texas has scrapped gun restrictions over the past decade, even as the state has suffered a series of mass shootings that have killed more than 85 people in the past five years.

The state does not require a permit to carry a long gun like the one used at Uvalde. Last year, lawmakers made it legal for anyone 21 and older to carry a handgun in public without a license, background check or training.

Jacklyn loved to sing and dance and wanted to go to Paris after graduating, her sister said. “She was one of the sweetest souls you could ever meet,” Cazares said.

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She and her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, were best friends, part of a close-knit quintet of classmates. All five died in the shooting.

Jacklyn’s big sister told lawmakers that since the massacre she had been reviewing the security measures the school was supposed to have in place, including how teachers were to keep their doors closed and locked at all times.

“How, when some of those classroom doors weren’t closing?” she said, with family members sitting behind her wearing T-shirts with pictures of Jacklyn that read “Forever in our hearts.”

Just after Jazmin finished speaking about the loss of her sister, a woman who lost her parents in a 1991 shooting that left two dozen dead at a Luby cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, told the committee that waiting periods for gun sales were “worthless” and gun-free zones should be abolished.

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“Let’s be clear, the gun is just a tool. It’s a tool that can be used to kill a family, but it’s a tool that can be used to protect a family,” Suzanna Hupp said. She said she was invited to address the committee by one of its co-chairs.

Jacklyn’s father, Javier Cazares, followed Hupp down a hall after his testimony and they exchanged handshakes and a brief hug.

“Unfortunately, we both understand. We know it’s real. There’s a tendency for everyone to say, “Well, that’s not going to happen to me,” Hupp said. “I think there’s a connection there, just automatically, unsaid. In a way, they were my parents, and they died quickly and they died together. I can’t imagine losing a child. I can’t even go there in my head.

Days after the Uvalde tragedy, Javier Cazares has told how he rushed to school and kept a close eye on children fleeing school only to catch a glimpse of his 9-year-old ‘firecracker’.

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He and other parents grew frustrated that police weren’t doing more to arrest the shooter.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all have to go. You all have to do your job,” said Cazares, an army veteran. “We were ready to go to work and rush.”

These delays and errors in law enforcement response are now the focus of federal, state and local investigations. This week, the Texas state police chief called it an “abject failure” and said the police response went against everything they had learned over the past two years. decades after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999.

Officers armed with rifles stood in a hallway at Robb Elementary for more than an hour, partly waiting for more weapons and equipment, before entering the classroom, Col. Steve McCraw said, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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He blamed much of the blame for the delays on Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District Police Chief who McCraw said was the commander in charge.

The school district placed the police chief on administrative leave on Wednesday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said the facts about what happened remained unclear and he was unsure when details of multiple investigations would be revealed.

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Arredondo said he did not consider himself responsible and assumed someone else had taken over. He declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The mayor of Uvalde pushed back against McCraw by blaming Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Safety repeatedly spread false information about the shooting and glossed over the role of its own officers.

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