What has happened so that an 18-year-old has decided to murder at least 21 people in Texas? Who was he and why did no one seem to know that he was dangerous? At least 19 students and two teachers have been killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The massacre plunges the United States – the only developed country in the world where shootings are commonplace in schools – back into a chronic nightmare and revives an eternal unresolved problem, that of gun ownership. The perpetrator, a former student of the school and identified as Salvador Ramos, entered the Robb Elementary School armed and began shooting at everyone who crossed his path, until he was shot down by the police. This is the reconstruction of what happened.

Salvador Ramos, unknown to almost everyone, buys two assault rifles on his 18th birthday. In the United States, that is the minimum age, according to federal law, for anyone to buy long weapons such as shotguns or rifles. In the state of Texas, in addition, Republican Governor Greg Abbott (in office since 2014) approved a law in September 2021 that allows those over the age of 21 to carry weapons in public, without a license or training. Going back to Ramos, who was known to have been bullied at school because of his stutter, he hadn’t attended classes for a long time and wasn’t going to graduate this year. He had been working at Wendy’s, a fast-food restaurant in Uvalde, but had left a month ago, the manager revealed to The New York Times, adding that Ramos used to bother female employees and that “no one really knew him.”

Ramos posts several selfies on his instagram account. He dresses in black, has long hair, poses very seriously. He himself publishes a ‘story’ in which he comes out yelling at his mother. There are also photographs of two semi-automatic shotguns that then go unnoticed: in one of the images the weapon rests on Ramos’ knees. Days before, as revealed by the newspaper ‘New York Post’, Ramos sends a message to an Instagram user with whom he had no relationship. “You’re going to repost my gun photos,” she tells him. She replies days later, “What do your weapons have to do with me?” And then, last Friday, Ramos writes to her again: “I’m about to do it”, to which the girl asks: “About to do what?”. “I have a little secret that I want to tell you” Ramos responds again, accompanying this message with a smiley emoticon that covers its eyes. And one last message, just two hours before the massacre: “I’m out.”

CNN also collects the testimony of an old friend of Ramos, to whom he sent days before the massacre a photo of a backpack full of cartridges. He asked her what he wanted them for and she replied, “I’m different now, you wouldn’t recognize me.”

Ramos shoots his grandmother, authorities confirm hours later. Grandma’s house is the one on Ramos’s driver’s license, so they could have lived together. Neither the woman’s health status nor the reasons that could have led to this attack have yet been reported.

Ramos rushes to the school, crashes his vehicle near the entrance and bursts into the school, wearing a bulletproof vest and believed to be carrying two weapons, a pistol and a rifle. “As soon as he walks into the school he starts shooting kids, teachers, anyone who gets in his way,” a Texas police spokesman says.

A half hour later, the school reports that there is an active shooting in the building. Some agents break into the school to take their own children out of it. At one o’clock in the afternoon, the police confirm that Ramos has been killed after leaving at least 21 fatalities: 19 children under the age of 10 and two teachers, both with decades of experience. In addition, there are more than a dozen injured, including two police officers who suffered minor injuries when confronting Ramos.

Politicians begin to react. Fresh from his tour of Asia, a rueful Joe Biden wonders, “When, for God’s sake, are we going to take on the gun lobby?” and he asks that the pain “turn into action”. Meanwhile, the Democratic senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, publicly calls for a law to be voted in the coming days to strengthen criminal or psychological background checks on those who want to buy weapons, a measure that associations have been calling for for years but that Republicans have been blocked repeatedly. In fact, in the midst of the drama, Texas Senator Ted Cruz does not hesitate to affirm that some “take advantage of tragedies to rise up against the second amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear and use arms.” Abbott, the governor of Texas, does not seem to back down from his staunch defense of that right. On Twitter, he resurfaces a message of his from years ago in which he lamented that Texas had come in second place in the purchase of weapons in the entire country, behind California. “Let’s get the groove back!” he said, in 2015.

Almost 12 hours have passed since the massacre and there are many families from Uvalde who are still looking for their children, who do not appear at the meeting point nor have they been located at the hospital. The whole city is in awe. Social networks are flooded with calls for help from people looking for a son, a grandson, a nephew, a friend.

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