Visitors place flowers at a make-shift memorial in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., May 24, 2023. /CFP
The one-year anniversary of the school shooting killing 19 pupils and two teachers in Uvalde in the U.S. state of Texas arrived on Wednesday, marked by deep frustration as gun violence appears more rampant across the country.
Robb Elementary School, where an 18-year-old gunman committed the massacre one year ago, has been abandoned since then and is still awaiting demolition. Nearby there are 21 white crosses decorated with sunflowers and the names of the dead, serving as a memorial site.
"May 24 is going to be a difficult day," Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said at a news briefing earlier this week, suggesting local residents need "space and privacy to reflect on the last year without the fear of intrusion."
Throughout the past year, the families of the victims tried hard to advance a state law aimed to raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic weapons, such as the AR-15 used in the shooting, from 18 to 21 years in Texas. But their efforts have been stalled by Republicans who dominate the state legislature.
"Almost a year now, and honestly nothing has changed," said Jesse Rizo, a relative of Jacklyn Cazares, one of the children killed in the shooting. "We're just a number (to politicians)."
Visitors hug as they place flowers at a memorial in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., May 24, 2023. /CFP
Mass shootings on the rise
According to Everytown For Gun Safety, an American nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control and against gun violence, in 2023 there have been at least 39 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, with 17 deaths and 30 injuries nationally.
U.S. President Joe Biden used the anniversary to renew his call for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, declaring, "too many schools, too many everyday places have become killing fields."
Biden, a Democrat, has repeatedly urged the U.S. Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, saying that we "need to do more to protect our schools." However, it is unlikely that the divided Congress would approve the legislative proposal as the Republicans control the House of Representatives.
"Gun reform" only means making it easier to buy and carry guns in some U.S. red states, led by Republicans, as mass shootings are on the rise in the country so far this year, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis issued last week.
More than 700 mass shootings have been documented in the U.S. just since Uvalde, according to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive, which defines such incidents as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not counting the shooter.
The United States is the country with the most civilian-held firearms in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for 46 percent of global civilian gun ownership.
(With input from agencies)