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'How many deaths is too many?' Bay Area lawmakers condemn GOP gun policy after latest school massacre

18 children, 2 adults killed in mass shooting at Texas elementary school
18 children, 2 adults killed in mass shooting at Texas elementary school 03:14

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bay Area lawmakers issued blistering criticism of Republican opposition to gun contnrol measures in the wake of the latest mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school Tuesday.

Late Tuesday afternoon a Texas state senator said the death toll from the shooting at Robb Elementary School had risen to 21 - 18 children and three adults. Three other people were wounded and in serious condition. The 18-year-old gunman was shot dead by police. 

It was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago. And it came just 10 days after a gunman in body armor killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities say was a racist attack.  

"Across the nation, Americans are filled with righteous fury in the wake of multiple incomprehensible mass shootings in the span of just days. This a crisis of existential proportions - for our children and for every American," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a prepared statement. "For too long, some in Congress have offered hollow words after these shootings while opposing all efforts to save lives. It is time for all in Congress to heed the will of the American people and join in enacting the House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law."

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CNN reported the gunman bought two assault rifles on his 18th birthday.

The shooting comes days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston. Governor Greg Abbott and both of Texas' U.S. senators were among elected Republican officials who were the scheduled speakers at a Friday leadership forum sponsored by the NRA's lobbying arm.

"Another day, another mass shooting, and more silence from the gun lobby and Republicans who refuse to allow any gun safety reforms to occur," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) in a prepared statement. "So far this year - and we're not even at the end of May - there have been more than 200 mass shootings leaving more than 230 dead and more than 840 injured.

"After every shooting, I ask how many deaths is too many? And after every mass shooting, the news recedes as Republicans refuse to budge, refuse to take any action to limit these deaths," Feinstein's statement continued. "Our gun laws are so lax, we don't even require basic background checks for guns bought online, at gun shows or from private sellers. We can't even keep guns out of the hands of children. We have to act or more and more people will continue to die."

In the years since Sandy Hook, the gun control debate in Congress has waxed and waned. Efforts by lawmakers to change U.S. gun policies in any significant way have consistently faced roadblocks from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.

A year after Sandy Hook, Sens. Joe Manchin a West Virginia Democrat, and Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, negotiated a bipartisan proposal to expand the nation's background check system. But as the measure was close to being brought to the Senate floor for a vote, it became clear it would not get enough votes to clear a 60-vote filibuster hurdle.

Then-President Barack Obama, who had made gun control central to his administration's goals after the Newtown shooting, called Congress' failure to act "a pretty shameful day for Washington."

"I wish I could look at my three small children and promise them they will always be safe at their schools. But, that would be a lie. America continues to arm the most dangerous people to the teeth -- leaving every innocent child vulnerable to being shot inside their classroom," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) in a prepared statement. "America has a mass shooter problem. And it's not a policy defect. It's by Republican design. GOP policies have allowed the most dangerous people to access the most dangerous weapons. Passing background checks and an assault weapons ban is long overdue."

Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on firearms purchases. One bill would have closed a loophole for private and online sales. The other would have extended the background check review period. Both languished in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome objections from a filibuster.

"We've lost nineteen little angels and two beloved educators to one of the largest mass shootings in our country," said Rep. Anno Eshoo (D-Los Altos) in a prepared statement Wednesday. "The most grievous pain is that of a parent burying their child. This can end if the American people insist that it does because the gun lobby is not more important than our nation's children."

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