• Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

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Debate Over Guns Unfolds in Uvalde, a Rural Texas Town in Grief

Three hundred miles away from Uvalde, raw divisions over gun rights in Texas were on vivid display on Friday as hundreds of gun control supporters protested outside an annual National Rifle Association convention in Houston. Inside, Mr. Trump and others blamed “evil” and an array of social ills for the attacks, but not easy access to guns.

Mr. Abbott withdrew from speaking in person at the convention and instead traveled to Uvalde amid mounting anger over revelations that the police response was delayed in confronting and killing the gunman.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, whose territory includes Uvalde, said the N.R.A. should have canceled its meeting in Houston. “The country is in mourning, but they are not,” Gustavo García-Siller, the archbishop, said in an interview, calling the embrace of guns “a culture of death in our midst.”

Vincent Salazar, 66, whose granddaughter Layla was killed in the Uvalde attack, said he had kept guns in his house for 30 years for protection. But as he grieved the girl who won three blue ribbons at Robb Elementary’s Field Day, he said he wanted lawmakers to at least raise the age for selling long guns like the black AR-15-style rifle used in his granddaughter’s killing.

“This freedom to carry, what did it do?” Mr. Salazar asked. “It killed.”

Several parents and relatives of Uvalde’s victims said they wanted politicians in Texas to follow the lead of six states that have raised the age for buying semiautomatic rifles to 21 from 18. But gun rights supporters are challenging those laws in court, and recently won a legal victory after an appeals court struck down California’s ban on selling semiautomatic guns to young adults.

Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed inside Robb Elementary, carries a gun and fully supports the Second Amendment, having learned how to fire semiautomatic rifles at 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. But he said the killing of Jacklyn and so many of her fourth-grade friends should force politicians into tightening gun measures.

“There should be a lot stricter laws,” he said. “To buy a weapon at 18 — it’s kind of ridiculous.”

Even as many in Uvalde have said they want to focus their attention on the victims, the conversation about guns has been reverberating through town. Kendall White, who guides groups on hunting trips, helped cook at the barbecue fund-raiser for relatives of victims of the attack on Friday.