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The shooting in Uvalde conjures memories of Sandy Hook school shooting

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We begin this hour with the latest news out of Uvalde, Texas. For those of you with children nearby, what you're about to hear may not be appropriate for young listeners.

Earlier today, a gunman walked into an elementary school and killed 15 people. It is a developing story that we're going to be updating all evening long.

And joining us now with the latest is NPR's Cory Turner. Hi, Cory.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So I understand that the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, spoke at a press conference not too long ago. What did he say?

TURNER: That's right. He spoke in Abilene. Governor said an 18-year-old male who is reported to have been a student at the local high school there in Uvalde abandoned his vehicle and around 11:30, entered Robb Elementary School, which serves second-, third- and fourth-graders in Uvalde. He apparently, the governor said, walked in with a handgun and perhaps a rifle, though Abbott did say that is not yet confirmed. Abbott told reporters that 15 people were killed in the rampage, 14 of them children and one teacher. He also said the suspected shooter is dead, and it is believed that he was killed by responding officers. Abbott said two responding officers were struck by rounds but were not injured seriously.

And then finally, Ailsa, we know that President Biden, who is returning from a trip to Asia, is going to address the nation around 8:15 Eastern time.

CHANG: OK. So the suspected gunman, 18 years old, now dead, was a student at the local high school. Do we know anything else about him?

TURNER: We're not yet reporting his name, but Governor Abbott did say that the gunman is reported to have shot his grandmother before he entered the school. And obviously, that conjures memories of another mass shooting from 10 years ago when a 20-year-old gunman in Newtown, Conn., shot and killed his mother at their home and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he shot and killed 20 children and six staff members.

CHANG: I mean, it's so hard to believe that it's been a decade since Sandy Hook. When you think about the conversation around gun control, around gun rights, around mental health, I mean, how much do you think that conversation has evolved over the last ten years?

TURNER: If I'm being honest, not so much, Ailsa. I was thinking just this morning - before the shooting - of the time I was in Texas. It was almost exactly four years ago. And I was there to cover another school shooting. It was in Santa Fe. Eight students were killed, two teachers shot to death. In terms of preventing shootings like this, I do feel like schools have changed quite a bit. In many places, they have really stepped-up efforts to help students with mental health struggles.

In fact, you know, just a few years ago, I actually visited Scarlett Lewis. She's the mother of Jesse Lewis, who was one of the kids who was killed at Sandy Hook. And since then, she has been a real force behind getting schools to embrace teaching kids compassion and really building their social and emotional skills. You know, at the time, she told me, it's all I do; it is the focus of my life; every waking moment, every breath, every word that comes out of my mouth is about nurturing, healing, love.

But in terms of gun control efforts, Ailsa, we know very little has changed. In fact, after Newtown, they really hit a brick wall. And I'll just add - in a twist of awkward timing, Governor Abbott, along with former President Trump, as well as Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, are confirmed speakers at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting later this week in Houston, about a four-hour drive from Uvalde.

CHANG: That is NPR's Cory Turner. Thank you, Cory.

TURNER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.