A long-awaited report from the U.S. Department of Justice analyzing law enforcement’s response to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde found “cascading failures of leadership” in the emergency response to the crisis.
A lack of “structure contributed to confusion among responders about who was in charge of the response and how they could assist,” the report noted, adding that the “failures may have been influenced by policy and training deficiencies.”
Police were unwilling to confront gunman’s rifle
Among the issues with law enforcement’s response was its unwillingness to confront the shooter’s high-powered AR-15, an investigation by the Texas Tribune found last winter. Despite being armed with the same rifle, responding officers deemed it too dangerous to confront the shooter and instead waited for backup from U.S. Border Patrol and a SWAT team. Their hesitation isn’t unique to Uvalde, the Tribune noted. Police officers that responded to Florida mass shootings in Parkland and at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando also hesitated to confront gunmen armed with semi-automatic rifles.
AR-15s are the most popular weapons used in mass shootings
The widely available AR-15 is the most frequently used gun in mass shootings in the United States, The Washington Post reported last year. The devastation shooters who use the gun leave in their wake is significant and gruesome: Bullets can tear through vital organs and shatter bones, leaving victims in some cases unrecognizable. Part of the firearm’s ubiquity has come from decades of marketing, the Post noted. Gun manufacturers in the early 2000s seized on American battlefield successes, and ads for the firearm featured people in military uniforms, one expert said. “Everybody wanted to be a Navy SEAL,” Grant Reeher, a political science professor who is authoring a book on gun politics, told the paper.
2023 was near-record year for mass shootings in the US
Mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, Vox noted earlier this month. The U.S. government has struggled to address the issue, and limited reforms adopted by Congress have done little to reduce the number of incidents. Mass shootings have been rising since 2015, peaking in 2021 with 686 incidents, according to research from the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. The high rate of gun-related deaths is due in part to the huge amount of firearms Americans own — approximately 390 million guns were in circulating in 2018, a research project found. About four in 10 adults in the U.S. say they live in a home with a gun, Pew Research noted, and 32% of adults own one personally.