May 25, 2022 - Podcasts

A nation in mourning again

19 children and at least 2 adults are dead after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Almost 10 years after Sandy Hook, and just 11 days after the mass shooting in Buffalo New York, the nation is forced into mourning and outrage again.

Guests: Axios' Astrid Galván and Margaret Talev.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning. Welcome to Axios Today.

It’s Wednesday, May 25th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

19 children and at least 2 adults are dead after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?

NIALA: Almost 10 years after Sandy Hook, and just 11 days after the mass shooting in Buffalo New York, the nation is forced into mourning and outrage again.

Yesterday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School marks the 213th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2022. Officials confirmed the suspect - an 18-year-old man - is dead, and say they believe he acted alone.

Axios’s Astrid Galvan has been following the story – Astrid what do we know so far about the victims of this horrific attack?

ASTRID GALVÁN: Unfortunately, not a whole lot has come out yet. We do know that the teacher who was killed was a longtime teacher beloved in her community. But we're still waiting to hear about the other victims.

NIALA: I was struck by some reports yesterday saying that Uvalde is such a small town, that a few of the parents probably may have even known the shooter. Can you give us a sense of what this community looks like?

ASTRID: Yeah, Uvalde’s a, you know, a small place. It's close to San Antonio, also close to the US-Mexico border, but not on the border. You know, working class, largely Mexican American families. A lot of Latino communities, especially, when they're small in size, they're close knit. I come from El Paso, Texas, which is actually really big, a huge population of over 700,000 people and it feels like a small town. People know each other. People have a real sense of community and closeness. So, I wouldn't be surprised if that's also the case here.

NIALA: You're a native Texan. You're a parent of young children and unfortunately you've covered mass shootings before. How are you processing all of this?

ASTRID: I'll be very frank. I was immediately sick to my stomach. After covering the shooting in my hometown of El Paso, in which a gunman shot 23 people. It was heart-wrenching. I remember my daughter at the time was 18 months and she went with me on this reporting trip and stayed with my mom while I was out reporting. And then, now she's four and I just cannot wrap my head around the dangers that she'll face just going to school. It's just so scary and heartbreaking. It's it's, it's really tough.

NIALA: Astrid, if you don't mind sharing, what are you going to say to your daughter about this?

ASTRID: I think about this all the time and I'm quite frankly not sure. I think about how to tell her about this without instilling a sense of fear. Like I want her to still be a happy normal kid who loves going to school while at the same time, knowing that she has to be aware that this is a possibility. I think about it a lot.

NIALA: And as a journalist who has covered mass shootings, what do you anticipate we will be seeing in the coming days?

ASTRID: So over the next coming days, we're just going to start to find out more about the victims, who they were, what lives they led, you know, we'll start hearing from their families. Hopefully getting more information from law enforcement about maybe what the motive was, you know, just more details because I think right now, the information that we have is extremely basic. And so more things are going to start to unfold and then you'll see some community action, you know, and El Paso, there were lots of vigils, a memorial, lots of, kind of community events to bring people together.

NIALA: Astrid Galván is the editor of Axios Latino. Thanks Astrid.

ASTRID: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: In a moment, we’re back with how other lawmakers are responding to the shooting.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

There have been more than two dozen mass shootings at American schools this year. They are almost weekly. Following yesterday’s shooting in Uvalde, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who was in office during the Sandy Hook massacre almost a decade ago in his state, spoke on the Senate floor:

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in a classroom because they think they're going to be next. What are we doing?

NIALA: Could fresh outrage and new pressure on lawmakers move the needle on guns in America? Axios’ Margaret Talev is with me for more on that – hi Margaret.


NIALA: Margaret, we also heard President Biden's emotional plea last night for lawmakers to stand up to the gun lobby. Is there any indication that we'll see that anytime soon?

MARGARET: In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the answer appeared to be no. And the reason we know that is because right now the filibuster is still operative in the US Senate. There is not an immediate mass change in the behavior of Republican senators and Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, who essentially controls whether or not the filibuster remains said he would not end the filibuster in order to force a vote on gun control.

NIALA: Is there any sense that President Biden would take his own action in the form of an executive order?

MARGARET: Presidents for decades have been trying to figure this out and the truth is that what he can do is limited and to do what he wants to do, he needs Congress and to get Congress, he needs the Senate and to get the Senate under the current construct, he needs either the end of the filibuster or a massive sudden unexpected change of heart of 10 or 12 senators.

NIALA: What did we hear from Republicans on this yesterday, Margaret?

MARGARET: So Niala, we did hear from many Republicans an outpouring of support for the families, anger and frustration with the violence, but not a shift in thinking about gun control legislation. And in fact, there is an NRA conference slated for the end of the week that's set to feature former President Donald Trump, Texas Governor Abbott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

NIALA: President Biden said last night that the majority of Americans support what he called “common sense gun reform.” Does that line up with what we know about polling?

MARGARET: The polls do show that a majority of Americans favor some kind of increased restrictions. Recent Gallup polling asks “In general, do you feel the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now?” 52% say more strict, only 11% say less strict, but about a third of Americans say keep as they are now.

NIALA: Margaret in the middle of all of this, we did have some big primary results last night that may affect the balance of the Senate next year, specifically out of Georgia. What stands out to you and did this news from Texas have any effect?

MARGARET: Look, based on these results from the Tuesday night primaries, we are seeing more evidence of the potential of some waning power for former President Donald Trump's endorsements, particularly in races where there are incumbents. The primaries are also going to tell us something about whether progressives are largely successful in their efforts to oust more centrist incumbents on the Democratic side. And we're looking at the end of the Bush dynasty in Texas. There's plenty of time to talk about all of that later, but I will say this. What this latest gun tragedy is telling us is that in an election year that we were sure was going to be all about inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, COVID malaise, two hugely potent political issues are now also going to share this stage, not just abortion rights, but gun control in America.

NIALA: Margaret Talev is Axios’ managing editor for politics. Thanks as always Margaret.

MARGARET: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: One final thing: today marks two years since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today, President Biden will sign an executive order on policing to address police accountability and use of force. Relatives of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are expected to be in attendance. Next week on the show, we’ll have a deeper dive into George Floyd with one of the authors of a new book about his life and impact.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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