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The calls for gun reform follow every school shooting: Here's what they've led to

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/31/2022 Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY
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Correction & clarification: A prior version of this article misstated Sandy Hook Promise’s mission. The group advocates for safe gun ownership and gun safety.

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults, marked the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.

Like other mass-casualty incidents at American schools, Tuesday's massacre followed the now-familiar pattern of outrage, thoughts and prayers and calls for changing the country's gun laws. 

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In the more than two decades since the Columbine High School killings made school shootings a part of American life, federal gun control legislation has not seen many changes, according to Lisa Geller, a state affairs adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. 

Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candle light vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association August 5, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. Thirty-one people have died following the two mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. © Win McNamee, Getty Images Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candle light vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association August 5, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. Thirty-one people have died following the two mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

"I continue to be extremely frustrated with the lack of action at the federal level," Geller told USA TODAY. "We do have champions in Congress that really care about this issue, like (Connecticut Sen.) Chris Murphy and others, but it's not enough if you don't vote." 

There have been 214 mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks the number of gun violence incidents in the country. It  defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are killed or injured.

But the mass casualty events involving children at school typically bring the loudest calls for reform. Here's a breakdown of the legislative efforts in the aftermath of some of the most high-profile and deadliest school shootings in the U.S. since Columbine: 

Robb Elementary School – Tuesday

The shooting: As families in Uvalde grieve the 19 fourth graders and two teachers gunned down at Robb Elementary School, the National Rifle Association is hosting its annual convention 300 miles away in Houston. 

Among those scheduled to speak were Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, according to the NRA's website. But Abbott's office announced Thursday that he would no longer attend the conference in person and instead visit Uvalde. In an afternoon news conference in which Abbott expressed his anger for being misled by law enforcement whose response to the shooting is in question, the governor also spoke about a response to the tragedy that could go further than earlier efforts.

The response: Responding to demands, largely from Democrats, that he convene a special session of the Legislature in response to the Uvalde attack, Abbott said "all options are on the table."

"There will be committees formed, there will be meetings held, there will be proposals that will be derived, many of which will lead to laws," he said. "The status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. ... We're not going to do nothing about it."

While gun reform legislation has stalled in Congress in the past few years, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments Thursday also may signal a breakthrough for Democrats on gun legislation. 

McConnell, R-Ky., told CNN he met with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and encouraged him to work with Democrats "in trying to get an outcome that's directly related to the problem. And so I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that's directly related to the facts of this awful massacre." 

►'I am livid.': Abbott says he was misled about police action during Uvalde shooting

Oxford High School – Nov. 30, 2021

The shooting: A 15-year-old shooter opened fire, killing four students and wounding seven people at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, with a gun his parents bought him four days earlier as an early Christmas present.

The shooter was flagged twice by the school for “concerning behavior” before the attack – once the day before the shooting and then again hours before he opened fire.

The response: Michigan Democrats pushed new gun control legislation and tried to revive stalled bills in Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature in the days after the shooting. However, Democrats struggled against the GOP leaders’ opposition to such legislation.

►Bloodshed since Sandy Hook: Uvalde school shooting among deadliest school attacks in past 10 years

Santa Fe High School – May 18, 2018

The shooting: Just three months after a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, a 17-year-old killed nine students and one adult with a shotgun at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas – the deadliest school shooting in Texas before Uvalde.

The response: Texas leaders were at odds in the days after the shooting as then-Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo pointed to the lack of gun control reform and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned against legislation targeting firearms. Instead, Patrick recommended alternatives to curb gun violence, including arming teachers and staggering school start times.

What happened: Abbott held a series of roundtable discussions in an attempt to bridge the divide among Texans. But Abbott faced backlash from a group of teenagers, calling on him to do more while staging a “die-in” – where they lay on the ground as if they were dead – in front of Abbott’s Austin residence.  

Despite the efforts, Texas failed to pass any new gun legislation after the 2018 school shooting as the state’s effort met with swift rebuke from gun rights advocates. Instead, the state moved toward arming school staff members and bosting campus security measures as ways to combat school shootings.

►What are HR 8 and HR 1446? Gun control bills still await Senate votes after Texas shooting

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – Feb. 14, 2018

The shooting: Students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spent hours hiding in classrooms and under desks on Valentine’s Day in 2018 as a gunman – a former student – opened fire on the school, killing 17 people with an AR-15-styled rifle.

After the shooting, the Parkland community pushed for gun control and reform legislation, with students sparking a nationwide movement.

The response: A group of students, including David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind, worked to launch the “Never Again MSD” movement and were crucial players in organizing the National School Walkout on March 14, 2018, as well as the March for Our Lives, which drew more than 1 million people across the country to call for an end to gun violence.  

What happened: Despite the efforts, no significant federal legislation was passed. But several states did approve gun control measures after the mass shooting, including legislation that would prevent those convicted of domestic violence or considered suicidal from purchasing firearms. Some states also adopted laws to increase background checks and restrict concealed carrying.

►'It could be you': Mass shooters often warn people before they kill. What you can do to stop them

Sandy Hook Elementary School – Dec. 14, 2012

The shooting: Nearly a decade ago, a gunman opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 26 people – 20 first graders and six school employees – before taking his own life.

The response: In the years after the tragedy, several parents created charity and other activist organizations in honor of their children, including the Sandy Hook Promise, which lobbies for mental health care and gun safety. The organization was successful in limiting the sale of some guns in a few states, including Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey.

What happened: Sandy Hook Promise also worked to get 17 families affected by the shooting to lobby senators in a failed 2013 effort to get federal legislation that would have banned semi-automatic weapons and expand criminal and mental background checks for gun buyers.

►My son never came home from Sandy Hook.: My heart bleeds for Texas as I relive Dylan's murder.

Columbine High School – April 20, 1999

The shooting: Twelve students and one teacher were killed in a school shooting 23 years ago at Columbine High School after two shooters went on a rampage in Littleton, Colorado, before taking their own lives.

The response: House Democrats tried to force a Senate-passed gun control measure through the House after the Columbine massacre as Republicans vowed to fight against the legislation, according to an archived article by The Denver Post. 

What happened: The Post also reported in 2001 that the shooting led to a "fundamental quantum shift" in law enforcement training, noting that officers were now being trained to have a quicker response after some families of the Columbine victims filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office that said a quicker response could have saved lives. 

►On the front lines: Teachers across US question profession, gun laws after Texas school shooting

More coverage of Texas school shooting from USA TODAY

Contributing: Austin American-Statesman

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The calls for gun reform follow every school shooting: Here's what they've led to

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