A gunman has shot dead 18 young children and three adults at an elementary school in the US state of Texas, in the deadliest US school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed.
Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio said on Tuesday he was briefed by state police on the latest fatalities at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, The Associated Press reported.
"I was just briefed by the Texas Rangers, 18 children have passed on," Gutierrez told CNN, adding three adults had also been killed.
Three people wounded in the attack reportedly were hospitalized in serious condition.
US President Joe Biden denounced the US gun lobby and vowed to end the nation's cycle of mass shootings.
"It's time to turn this pain into action for every parent, for every citizen of this country," Biden said, his voice heavy with emotion.
"It's time for those who obstruct or delay or block commonsense gun laws -- we need to let you know that we will not forget," he said.
"As a nation, we have to ask when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?"
The gunman, identified by law enforcement as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was also killed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference earlier in the day, shortly after the attack in Uvalde.
The incident is the latest in a spree of deadly shootings in America, where horror at the cycle of gun violence has failed to spur enough action to end it.
The governor said Ramos was a student at Uvalde High School. Uvalde Police Chief Pete Arredondo said it appears that Ramos acted alone.
Arredondo said there were “several injuries.” University Health officials said a 10-year-old girl and a 66-year-old woman were being treated at University Hospital and were in critical condition.
Abbott said the gunman was believed to have shot his grandmother before heading to Robb Elementary School at around noon, abandoning his vehicle and entering with a handgun, and possibly also a rifle.
"He shot and killed, horrifically and incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher," Abbott said earlier in the day.
The governor said the suspect was also "deceased," adding that "it is believed that responding officers killed him."
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde,” Abbott said. “Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School. I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal.”
Ted Cruz, a Republican US senator from Texas, tweeted that he and his wife are "lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde."
US Senator Chris Murphy, a Democratic from Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting took place, took to the Senate floor shortly after the terrible news from the small city of Uvalde circulated throughout Washington, DC.
“What are we doing?” asked an angry Murphy, who represents a state where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 left 20 small children dead.
“Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate, why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is that as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?” Murphy said. “What are we doing?”
“I understand my Republican colleagues will not agree to everything that I may support, but there is a common denominator that we can find,” Murphy added.
The deadly violence in Texas follows a series of mass shootings in the United States this month.
On May 14, an 18-year-old white man shot 10 people dead at a Buffalo, New York grocery store.
“It’s a horrible situation. And unfortunately, now an American problem that it seems many lawmakers refuse to solve,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told CNN.
“And the problem is that firearm homicides have increased 40 percent for people between the ages 10 and 24 years old in America. Those are the stats for 2020. It’s unacceptable, and I can’t believe lawmakers refuse to act,” Escobar said.
More than 3,000 children and teens have been shot and killed and 15,000 more have been shot and injured since Sandy Hook, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, which tracks gun violence and other shootings on school grounds.
The Sandy Hook school shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members, before killing himself. Prior to driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home.
Although the Sandy Hook massacre was the third-deadliest mass shooting in US history, Congress has consistently failed to pass federal gun control legislation due to the influence of the powerful gun lobby.
No major national legislation to increase gun control has succeeded in the decade since, despite numerous Democratic politicians, including Biden, calling for bans on sales of assault-style weapons and other measures.