At least 18 schoolchildren and three adults have been killed in a shooting at a primary school in the US state of Texas, in the latest mass shooting in the United States.
Speaking to reporters, Governor of Texas Greg 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 governor said, “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.”
Uvalde Memorial Hospital had said on Facebook earlier that 13 children had been transferred there for treatment. It said two people were deceased on arrival.
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.
The country has seen 212 mass shootings so far this year, according to a tally by the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.
The shooting in Uvalde drew condemnation and sorrow on social media, as well as renewed calls for action to stem gun violence in the US.
The US president has denounced mass shootings as a “national embarrassment” and promised to enact stricter gun regulations. But Biden faces an uphill battle against gun lobby groups and legislators who are opposed to more restrictive gun laws.
Last month, Biden unveiled a new US Department of Justice rule that he said would crack down on the prevalence of so-called “ghost guns” – privately-made firearms without serial numbers that law enforcement agencies find at crime scenes. At the same time, he urged Congress “to do its job” and pass budget allocations and other legislation to reduce gun crime.
There were 61 “active shooter” incidents in the US in 2021, according to newly released FBI data – a 52 percent increase from the previous year and the highest on record.
The school shooting in Uvalde is the latest in a string of deadly acts of gun violence over the past two weeks in the US.
A gunman attacked a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York, on May 14, killing 10 people in what investigators say was a racist hate crime.
In California that same weekend, a man opened fire on Taiwanese-American church congregants, killing one man.