13 Investigates: Uvalde families urge lawmakers to 'do something'

Sarah Rafique Image
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
How Texas and Florida responded differently after school shootings
When 17 people died in a school shooting in 2018 in Parkland, Florida, state lawmakers acted swiftly. 13 Investigates how Republican-led Florida was able to enact bipartisan gun co

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There was one thing Nikki Cross didn't care about as she sat in front of the Texas lawmakers earlier this year and testified in support of a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic gun from 18 to 21.

"I'm just a mom. I'm not even sure which one of you exactly, sometimes, are Democrat or Republican because I don't care. I just don't want any of you to sit here where I'm sitting. I don't want you to have to identify your child's body based on what he was wearing to school that day," Cross said, as her voice cracked through tears. "I don't want any more children to hide under their desks in fear. I don't want any more teachers to worry about how they're going to protect several students at once when they're just one person."

Cross' 10-year-old son, Uziyah "Uzi" Garcia, was one of 19 students and two teachers who were killed May 24, 2022, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

13 Investigates found one year since the shooting, Texas hasn't passed gun control reforms that bipartisan lawmakers suggest are working in other states.

After the Uvalde shooting, ABC News reported the 18-year-old suspect legally purchased two AR-15-style rifles on May 22, two days before the massacre and six days after his birthday.

It wasn't the first time a teenage gunman allegedly carried out a school shooting in Texas.

More than five years ago, a 17-year-old allegedly killed eight students and two teachers at Santa Fe High School, about 40 miles southeast of Houston.

Around the time of the Santa Fe shooting, Florida experienced a similar tragedy in 2018 when 14 students and three teachers were killed at Parkland High School.

Unlike Texas, Florida was in the middle of its legislative session and passed bipartisan gun reforms just 23 days after Parkland.

If Texas took action and enacted the same laws Florida did four years ago, the Uvalde gunman would not have been allowed to legally purchase his weapon.

ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION: 13 Investigates how Texas and Florida responded differently after school shootings

The video featured above is from our 2022 13 Investigates report.

13 Investigates traveled to Florida last summer to speak with Republican and Democratic lawmakers who worked to pass bipartisan gun reforms after a school shooting in 2018. We wanted to know how Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass reforms and how it has impacted public safety across the state.

Then-Florida State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, told us lawmakers visited the site of the Parkland shooting while it was still an active crime scene. Seeing the blood and bullets firsthand was a wake-up call for lawmakers, who began working on gun control legislation that could pass the then-Republican-controlled House and Senate.

"The one thing that we kept as our North Star is whatever bill we pass, it would've had to prevent what happened in Parkland," he said. "If we pass a bill and it doesn't prevent what would've happened, then the bill fails the ultimate test."

Ultimately, Florida lawmakers passed bipartisan laws that raised the age to buy all guns from 18 to 21, instituted a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, and created a Red Flag Law that keeps guns out of the hands of people deemed by a judge to be a danger to them and others.

Our reporting found, since those laws went into effect, not a single student has been killed in a shooting at a Florida school. The Red Flag Law has been used more than 8,000 times, including more than 1,000 times by a Republican sheriff who is a strong Second Amendment supporter but says the red flag process is misunderstood.

Despite supporting the gun reforms, none of the Florida politicians who voted in favor of them in 2018 lost their re-election either.

Texas lawmakers can't say the same when it comes to the action the state took after Santa Fe in 2018 or Uvalde in 2022.

Five students have been shot or killed in school-related shootings in Texas so far this year, according to Education Week's 2023 School Shooting Tracker.

In the year since the Uvalde shooting, Texas has not passed any legislation that would make it harder for teens to purchase deadly weapons.

After the shooting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott's priorities for preventing future school shootings included school safety, mental health, police training and firearm safety.

He has allocated millions to mental health services in Uvalde.

But, family members of Uvlade victims are advocating for other changes.

In April, several of those families went to the Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 2744, which would raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle to 21.

With less than a week left in the legislative session, the bill is not expected to pass.

On the anniversary of the shooting, Moskowitz tweeted photos of him meeting with U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, "as co-chairs of the Bipartisan School Safety and Security Caucus to discuss solutions to protect schools and mitigate tragedies like Parkland and Uvalde."

Still, months after Uvalde, families of the children who died can't help but feel nothing has changed.

"I don't come to you as a Democrat or Republican," Cross pleaded to lawmakers in April. "I just come to you as a mom, as a parent. Enough is enough. Please do something. Do something now. Don't wait until another community has to go through this."

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