An 18-year-old gunman has killed at least 19 children at a primary school in the US state of Texas, officials said, in the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade and the latest gruesome moment for a country scarred by a string of mass shootings.
The death toll also included two adults, authorities said. Governor Greg Abbott said one of the two was a teacher.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Abbott said an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small community about 80km (50 miles) west of San Antonio.
Abbott said the gunman was killed, apparently by police officers responding to the scene.
“The shooter was … an 18-year-old male who resided in Uvalde. It is believed that he abandoned his vehicle and entered into the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde with a handgun and he may have also had a rifle, but that is not yet confirmed,” the governor said.
Speaking from the White House hours later, a visibly shaken US President Joe Biden urged Americans to stand up to the politically powerful US gun lobby, which he blamed for blocking enactment of tougher firearms safety laws.
Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff daily until sunset on Saturday in observance of the tragedy.
“As a nation, we have to ask, ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?’” Biden said on national television, suggesting reinstating a US ban on assault-style weapons and other “common sense gun laws.”
Gun violence has been a problem across the US for decades, drawing condemnation and calls for tougher restrictions, especially in the aftermath of mass shootings at schools.
The US reported 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent compared with 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.