For American children, the possibility of an armed man bursting into their classroom and attempting to kill them is not just a nightmare.
It’s something for which they are trained.
“Active shooter drills”, in which kids as young as five are told to crouch behind their desks while their teachers lock the doors and turn off the lights, are as common in the US as fire drills.
In some schools, the theatrics become so extreme that children are doused in fake blood and asked to moan and writhe around while police in combat gear run the halls.
In a country with more guns than people, where 53 citizens die from a bullet wound each day, teaching children to save themselves has become the only fix everyone can agree on.
But when a man brandishing two assault rifles broke into Robb Elementary School in a small Texan town this week, it turned out that all those drills weren’t nearly enough.
Nineteen little lives lost. Two teachers who tried to shield them, gone.
Parents who had fed their fourth graders breakfast and sent them on their way were, by nightfall, providing DNA samples so the bodies of their babies could be identified.
For the Governor of Texas, there was an obvious explanation for the tragedy.
“I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question … ‘What is the problem here?'” Greg Abbott said at a press conference.
“And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said we have a problem with mental health illness in this community.”
When pressed on the arms race happening in his state, Mr Abbott shook his head.
“I hate to say this, but there are more people shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” he said.
Even when his long-time foe, Democratic politician Beto O’Rourke, strode to the stage and blamed his policies for the shooting, Mr Abbott was unflappable.
“This is on you!” Mr O’Rourke boomed.
But the Governor simply flipped through his notes nonchalantly while police removed Mr O’Rourke from the auditorium.
Greg Abbott has maintained his grip on America’s Lone Star state for seven years, and is likely to clinch a third term later this year.
But for those who know him, his transformation from moderate pro-business Republican to one of the most conservative firebrands in the nation has been mystifying.
Who is Greg Abbott?
When Greg Abbott was 26, the young law student took a study break and went for a jog around his home town of Houston.
As he ran down a suburban road, a 22-metre oak tree suddenly crashed on top of him, leaving him permanently paralysed from the waist down.
First, Mr Abbott sued the owner of the property on which the tree had grown. Then he sued the tree-trimming company that worked on the giant oak.
After he was awarded an out-of-court settlement, he pursued a life in law and politics.
Like Texas itself, Mr Abbott has always been a man of extremes.
He has spoken often of his dream for a more inclusive and multicultural Republican Party, and advocated for more funding of education, university research and transportation.
But he also grabbed national headlines as the state’s attorney-general by suing the Obama administration 25 times.
When president Barack Obama passed healthcare reforms, voting rights legislation or environmental protections, Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit.
Mr Abbott may not have had George W. Bush’s star power, but he found a niche for himself in the Texas state house by pushing Republican conservatism to new extremes.
“Greg is an arch, arch far-right conservative, which remains a shock to me,” Pearson Grimes, a former colleague, told the New York Times.
“When I knew him long ago, I never would have dreamed that this would be his politics.”
From immigration and abortion access to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Mr Abbott has railed against them all.
But the proliferation of guns in his state has long been his key platform.
Abbott’s record on gun laws
For Mr Abbott, American gun rights come from one crucial sentence written in 1791.
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” the founding fathers wrote in the US constitution.
In 1791, the average gun held one round, with a range of about 50 metres.
At best, you could fire off perhaps three or four rounds a minute. They were startlingly inaccurate and they were useless if they got wet.
These days, an AR-15 rifle — easily purchased in Texas and many other US states — can hold 30 rounds.
It is possible to fire 45 rounds a minute with such a gun, with an accurate range of 500 metres.
Trauma surgeons say the bullets can shred tissue. They pulverise organs. They can leave gaping exit wounds the size of oranges.
It is impossible to know what George Washington would make of an AR-15.
The revered father of the nation was once shot during America’s revolutionary war, and the four musket balls simply lodged in the fabric of his coat.
But for Mr Abbott, the matter is settled.
Since taking the reins as Governor of the Lone Star state in 2015, Mr Abbott has overseen a swathe of legislative changes to allow Texans even greater firearms freedoms.
Within his first term, he heralded in “open carry” laws to allow licensed Texans to tote their handguns in public, and “campus carry”, extending those permissions to college campus buildings.
When 26 congregants were killed at a Baptist church in southern Texas in 2017, Mr Abbott declared the best way to prevent mass shootings was “by using the forces of God”.
The following year, after a 17-year-old gunman opened fire and killed 10 students at a high school near Houston, he again called for prayer, but this time made plans to arm teachers and bring in extra police and metal detectors.
He discussed expanding background checks, banning assault weapons and bringing in “red flag laws”.
But none of the changes made it harder for anyone to purchase or carry a gun in public.
It was the same again in 2019, when another mass shooting left 20 dead at a Walmart in El Paso, and again a month later when a shooting spree across two Texas cities killed seven people.
Last year, the Texas Governor relaxed open carry rules even further, signing off on a so-called “constitutional carry” bill that now means anyone in Texas over the age of 21 can carry a handgun without a permit.
“You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights,” he said at the bill signing.
Abbott’s conservatism may be a front
Outside of Texas, Greg Abbott may come across as an extreme example of conservative Republican views.
Mr Abbott’s Texas is a state where abortions are heavily restricted, schools are banned from discussing critical race theory and parents who provide gender-affirming care for their transgender children are investigated for child abuse.
After the Uvalde shooting, his opponents resurfaced a tweet from 2015 where he told Texans he was “embarrassed’ the state had fallen behind California in gun sales and urged his constituents to “pick up the pace”.
It’s been quote tweeted more than 23,000 times.
Yet, the day after the shooting, stock prices of America’s five largest public gun and ammunition makers rose — just as they did after the Sandy Hook massacre and just as they did after Columbine.
Political observers say Mr Abbott’s ultra-conservative policies are part of a calculated attempt to fend off Republican challengers who sit even further to the right, and hold on to his grip on power in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
So far it’s paid off. Mr Abbott defeated his seven Republican opponents at the party’s primary in March.
Among them were Allen West, a disgraced former military colonel-turned-Florida congressman-turned-Fox News commentator, and Don Huffines, a former state senator who warned voters of an “invasion” of immigrants and “California communists”.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker, who encouraged former Texas governor Rick Perry to unseat Mr Abbott, suggested last year that grandparents would be willing to die of COVID-19 to save the economy.
With Mr Abbott predicted to win a third term as Governor, there are reports he may be seeking even higher office in 2024.
If his gubernatorial election promises are anything to go by, that may include a promise to build his very own Trump-style border wall where the state meets Mexico.
How the abortion fight intersects with gun laws
Some of Mr Abbott’s critics claim the legislation passed in his state protects the sanctity of life — until a child is born.
“There is no such thing as being “pro-life” while supporting laws that let children be shot in their schools,” New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said.
“It is an idolatry of violence. And it must end.”
But surprisingly, it may be Mr Abbott’s boldest move on abortion legislation that is used to curtail gun access in the US.
Last year, the state passed the Texas Heartbeat Law.
The bill turned private citizens into bounty hunters who can sue anyone who seeks an abortion more than six weeks into a pregnancy, as well as anyone who assists them — from the clinic that performs the procedure to the taxi driver who takes them to their appointment.
But California, Texas’s liberal regional neighbour, saw an opportunity.
The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, says he will adopt that legal framework to give people in his state the ability to sue gun manufacturers.
The bill would let the state’s citizen-bounty hunters sue anyone who “manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts”.
Mr Newsom said it was time to get creative.
“California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way,” he said.
What such legal gambits will be able to achieve in a meaningful way is yet to be seen.
Politicians keep arguing while the cycle repeats: Children are killed, families are devastated and the world watches in horror as Earth’s most powerful nation does little about it.
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