Long before the sun rose on Thursday, Jazmin Cazares sat on her sister’s bed and wept for the 9-year-old killed in the rampage at Uvalde school a month ago.
Then the purple-haired teenager got up for the four-hour drive to the Texas Capitol, where she tearfully pleaded with lawmakers to pass tougher gun laws and wondered. why so many security measures had failed.
“I shouldn’t have to be here right now. I should be at home watching a movie with my sister,” she said, sniffling. “I’m here to beg you to do something or change something, because the people who were supposed to keep him safe at school didn’t, they failed.”
His sister Jacklyn – a tough, compassionate girl who dreamed of visiting Paris and becoming a veterinarian – was one of 19 childreninside Robb Elementary School on May 24 before police stormed the classroom and killed the shooter. Two teachers also died.
The massacre and a series of recent massacres in the United States have rekindled debate about gun laws, safe schools and how to end violence. In Texas, lawmakers have responded to several mass shootings in recent years by making it easier to carry guns, rather than cracking down.
Jazmin’s testimony before a committee of lawmakers seeking to prevent mass shootings came as Congress moved to pass itsand the .
But all that mattered to the 17-year-old about to enter her final year of high school was that something was done to make schools safer. She said she has been doing active shooting practice since she was in pre-kindergarten.
“It’s terrifying not knowing if it’s true or not every time we lock ourselves up. And then having to go back to school next year?” she says. “Going to school shouldn’t be a decision. But it is. I have my senior year, that’s all. Will I survive it?”
Cazares told lawmakers they could honor victims by passing gun background checks and “red flag laws” that remove guns from people at extreme risk of harming themselves or others. .
Uvalde’s 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.
“There should be no reason this killer could have access to a gun,” said Cazares, who later said she knew the committee members were listening when she saw them tearing up.
“I felt it. It was genuine,” she said.
The Republican-controlled legislature in Texas has scrapped gun restrictions over the past decade, even as the state has suffered mass shootings that have killed more than 85 people since 2018.
The state does not require a license to carry a long gun like the one used at Uvalde, and it allows 18-year-olds to purchase them. Last year, lawmakers made it legal for anyone 21 and older to carry a handgun in public without a license, background check or training.
Jazmin Cazares told lawmakers that since the shooting she had reviewed the school’s safety rules, ticking off a list of requirements that had failed to stop the shooter, including that teachers must keep their doors locked at any time.
“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 and the words “Forever in our hearts.”
Her family’s grief, she said, is compounded by the fact that some of what happened at Robb Elementary could have been avoided.
Her little sister, she said, loved to sing and dance and “was one of the sweetest souls you could ever meet”.
Jacklyn and her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, were best friends, part of a close-knit quintet of classmates. All five died in the shooting.
Immediately after Jazmin’s testimony, a woman who lost her parents in a 1991 shooting that killed two dozen people in Killeen, Texas, told the committee that the wait times for gun sales guns were “worthless” and that gun-free zones should be removed.
“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. .
Hupp, a former Republican lawmaker, said she was invited to address the committee by one of its co-chairs.
After Hupp spoke, Jacklyn’s father, Javier Cazares, followed her down a hallway and they exchanged handshakes and a brief hug.
“There’s a connection there, just automatically, unspoken,” Hupp said. “In a way, it was my parents, and they died quickly and they died together. I can’t imagine losing a child. I can’t even think about it 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’.
He and other parents grew frustrated that the police didn’t do more. “A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all have to go,'” said Cazares, an army veteran.
Cazares said Thursday he still struggles to trust the state police’s ever-changing timelines. “Nobody wants to be blamed for what they did that day,” he said.
During a break from the hearing, Cazares and his family met a dozen police chiefs and officers in a hallway. “We let you down,” San Marcos, Texas police chief Stan Standridge told the family.
Theare now at the heart of multiple investigations. The Texas state police chief called this week “a dismal failure” and said the police response ignored everything they had learned since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999.
Police had enough officers and firepower to arrest the gunman three minutes after he entered the school, Col. Steve McCraw, principal of the, said Tuesday. But police officers with guns waited in a school hallway for more than an hour before entering the classroom and killing the shooter.
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 hasWednesday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said the facts about what happened remain unclear.
Arredondo said he did not consider himself responsible and assumed someone else had taken over. He declined repeated requests for comment from The The Switzerland Times.
The mayor of Uvalde pushed back on blaming Arredondo, saying the Ministry of Public Security has repeatedly published false information and glossed over the role of its own officers.