AUSTIN – The fight to change gun laws came front and center at the Texas State Capitol.
The Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence rallied in Austin on Tuesday as part of what’s being called a day of advocacy.
The families of the Robb Elementary victims and survivors of the shooting led the march through the streets of Austin from a church to the Capitol steps.
They stood as one family united in grief.
We heard chants saying “end gun violence” and “21 for 21.”
This rally brought together lawmakers and advocates for gun violence prevention and people whose lives have been devastated by gun violence.
The work didn’t stop outside. The families went to the offices of lawmakers, asking them face to face to support raising the age to buy assault-style weapons and increasing background checks.
Velma Duran lost her sister, Irma Garcia, and brother-in-law, Joe, to the shooting at Robb. She said her family is shattered, and she’s heartbroken that it’s been over nine months with no change to any laws.
“I’m angry, I’m tired, and I’m really hurt that so many people are failing us day after day after day. The normalizing of this situation, of this epidemic of gun violence, needs to stop,” Duran said.
Duran is a teacher herself and would also like to see changes made to make schools safer for herself and her students.
One of the most powerful speakers on Tuesday was also the youngest.
“As soon as we got to our class, we heard the gunshots. He wobbled my — he wobbled my…” Caitlyne Gonzales said, breaking down in tears.
So often we lose sight of the hard times Caitlyne faces. She’s brave and strong, but she’s only 10. Talking about how the gunman tried to get into her room is what breaks her down. We love you sweet girl. pic.twitter.com/1zzEOX5dlY
— Leigh Waldman (@LeighWaldman) February 28, 2023
The memories of the day that changed her life are sometimes hard for the 10-year-old to share.
The grief and fear have a lasting impact on her.
“He shot at my door, and a bullet went over my head. I heard — I remember hearing my best friend scream, and I remember hugging her that morning,” Caitlyne said.
Caitlyne lost her friends Jackie Cazares and Eliahna Torres. She stood with their families at the Capitol as she called on Gov. Greg Abbott directly to change gun laws.
“I shouldn’t have to be here right now, but I am because my friends don’t have a voice no more. Greg Abbott’s done nothing to protect me or my friends,” Caitlyne said.
As the families were inside the Capitol meeting with lawmakers, they were joined by Rosie Yanas Stone.
Stone has been in this battle for nearly five years since her son, Chris, was killed at Santa Fe High School.
“He’s a hero in his own skin. He saved seven people that day, and I know that if he had the chance, he’d do it all over,” Stone said.
Stone said she’s heartbroken and angry that more wasn’t done after the Santa Fe shooting to keep the Robb Shooting from happening.
“We just need changes, any kind of changes. Anything is better than nothing,” Stone said.
“We’re here to tell this governor, to beg this governor and others like him to do something,” state Sen/ Roland Gutierrez said to the crowd gathered for the rally.
“Do something, do something,” they chanted back.
No one from Tuesday’s rally met with Abbott.
KSAT 12 News reporter Leigh Waldman’s email to Abbott’s office on Monday still hasn’t been answered requesting a statement on the rally.
Last October, he stated raising the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon is unconstitutional. However, Florida’s governor did just that after the Parkland mass shooting that left 17 people dead.
Abbott’s office also stated they’re “providing $105.5 million to make schools safer and support the mental health of children, teachers, and families in Uvalde and across Texas.”
Find more Uvalde coverage from KSAT here