SAN ANTONIO — Dozens of families traveled nearly 300 miles from Uvalde to Edinburg, with the hopes of amplifying their message of accountability ahead of Friday's in-person debate between Gov. Greg Abbot and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.
Parents of the 19 children killed at Robb Elementary four months ago are continuing to fight for answers surrounding law enforcement’s delayed response to kill the gunman.
“Maybe you’re not a fan of either candidate, but I implore you to ask yourself: Do you want to send your child off to school and have them return? Do you want to hug them every night before bed? Do you want the opportunity to watch them grow? said Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter, Lexi, was killed at Robb Elementary. "Then vote accordingly. Vote for Beto, because a vote for Abbott is a grave mistake."
O’Rourke met with the grieving families hours before the debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At a pre-debate news conference, he showed support for raising the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21, along with other gun measures.
During his gubernatorial campaign, O’Rourke’s addressed tightening gun laws in Texas if elected governor. O’Rourke echoed the frustration of the Uvalde community as it relates to the perceived lack of transparency and accountability following the tragedy.
O’Rourke has continued to push to raise the age of purchasing assault-style rifles from 18 to 21, pass red-flag laws and require universal background checks.
Abbott’s request of having no in-studio audience during the debate came as no surprise for the families who still plan to watch the political duel. Like O’Rourke, they’ve advocated for Abbott to call for a special legislative session so lawmakers can consider tackling these issues stemming from not just Uvalde but past mass shootings.
“He has yet to lift a finger to call a special session to bring people around the table to move forward on common sense solutions that defend the Second Amendment while better protecting the lives of our kids,” O’Rourke said.
It is a policy proposal supported by many of the families affected by the mass shooting. The Beto O'Rourke campaign says the policy is supported by a majority of Texans based on recent polling.
"It has been 18 weeks and not a single thing has changed to make it any less likely that any other child in any other classroom in any other community in Texas will meet the same fate as these 19 children did on the 24th of May," O'Rourke said. "The answers are before us. You've heard it here from these parents, who unfortunately, know this issue better than any of us do."
Abbott has said that he believes raising the age to purchase an assault weapon is not constitutional and would not pass.
"It's clear that the gun control law they are seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, has already been ruled to be unconstitutional," Abbott said last month, citing three recent court rulings related to gun laws.
The two candidates for governor are planning to debate Friday evening in the Rio Grande Valley, and gun violence is expected to be a hot topic after the mass shooting in Uvalde earlier this year.