(CN) — A Texas high school student opened fire at an elementary school Tuesday and killed 19 students and two teachers before police fatally shot him, according to authorities.
The 18-year-old reportedly shot his grandmother before driving to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, population around 16,000, about 85 miles west of San Antonio.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the man entered the elementary school with a handgun and possibly a rifle.
"It's believed that responding officers killed him," Abbott said at a press conference. "It appears that two responding officers were struck by rounds but have no serious injuries."
This is the 212th mass shooting in the United States this year in which four or more people were shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Agents from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are on the scene.
Uvalde is just 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Department of Homeland Security said Border Patrol agents immediately responded to provide medical aid to victims, many of whom were rushed to hospitals in San Antonio.
Authorities identified the shooter as Salvador Ramos. He lived in Uvalde and was a U.S. citizen. Around 70% of the city’s residents are Hispanic, according to U.S. census data.
More than 500 students, all between the second and fourth grades, attend Robb Elementary, and this was the last week of classes for the school year.
The murdered teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, both instructed fourth grade classes.
Having just returned from a trip to Asia on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden spoke briefly at the White House about the Texas shooting.
"There's a lot we don't know yet," Biden said. "There's a lot we do know. Parents who will never see their child again, never have them jump in bed and cuddle with them. Parents who will never be the same. To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away."
He speaks from experience. His first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, and their 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, died in a car wreck in 1972.
The massacre comes just 10 days after an 18-year-old self-described white supremacist drove more than three hours from his New York home to a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo where he shot dead 10 Black people at a grocery store.
The Texas shooting is the worst at an elementary school since December 2012 when a 20-year-old man killed 26 people at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, according to the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
Biden spoke of the Connecticut murders in his speech. "As a nation we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?"
"It's been 3,448 days, 10 years, since I stood up at a grade school in Connecticut where another gunman massacred 26 people, including 20 first graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School," he continued. "Since then there have been over 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds."
To those who would caution, "guns don't kill people; people kill people," Biden touted the success of "common-sense gun laws."
"We can't prevent every tragedy," the president continued. "But we know they work and have a positive impact. When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled. The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on for God's sake. It’s just sick."
The president said he learned of the Texas shooting during his 17-hour flight home from Asia on Air Force One.
"What struck me is these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone and the courage to stand up to the lobbies? It's time to turn this pain into action."
Proponents of tougher gun laws are closely watching the U.S. Supreme Court, which is set rule on a case involving two New Yorkers who applied for concealed-carry permits for self-defense but failed to meet the state’s stringent standard of showing good cause for needing such a license.
In a hearing last November, the high court’s six conservative judges appeared receptive to the challengers’ claims that New York’s rules infringe on their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
Critics believe the justices are poised to issue a ruling that will create an unrestricted right to carry guns in public.
Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic former El Paso congressman, is running against Abbott for Texas governor this year. He urged Abbott to cancel plans to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, set to start Thursday at a convention center in downtown Houston.
"Governor Abbott, if you have any decency, you will immediately withdraw from this weekend's NRA convention and urge them to hold it anywhere but Texas," O'Rourke tweeted.
Former President Donald Trump and Texas U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, all Republicans, are also scheduled to speak alongside Abbott at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action's annual leadership forum on Friday, an event reserved for NRA members.
The institute is the NRA's lobbying arm.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said at Wednesday's City Council meeting that people are urging the city to cancel the NRA event.
"That convention has been on the books for more than two years," said Turner, an attorney and former longtime Texas state legislator. "It is a contractual arrangement. And so we simply cannot cancel a conference or convention because we may not agree with the subject matter. And that would subject the city to a number of lawsuits."
“I think the greater question is why are elected officials coming to the NRA to speak," he added. "What message does that send? And I do not think that the governor or U.S. Senator Ted Cruz or any other congress persons going and speaking sends the right message."
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