In This Episode
- Officials have not confirmed all the identities of the 21 victims – nearly all children – of the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. However, some family members have started to identify them publicly. Their deaths have sparked widespread outrage over Republicans’ staunch opposition to gun control measures. Nicole Golden, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, joins us to discuss her work advocating for gun reform in her state.
- And in headlines: Trump-backed candidates saw mixed results during Tuesday’s primary elections, State Farm Insurance dropped its support for the GenderCool Project, and the British government released an official report about Partygate.
- KSAT: “Remembering the victims of the Uvalde elementary school shooting” – https://bit.ly/3MOvdSV
- Texas Gun Sense – https://www.txgunsense.org/
- The Texas Tribune: “Texas has had eight mass shootings in the past 13 years, while lawmakers have steadily loosened restrictions on carrying firearms” – https://bit.ly/3NDcQRa
- New York Times: “How to Help Victims of the Uvalde School Shooting” – https://nyti.ms/3LNCnFK
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, May 26th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re calling on righteously angry basketball coaches to switch jobs with senators until further notice.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Steve Kerr, if you would not mind taking the wheel for a second. I think it is for the best.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. We need 60 of the angriest basketball coaches who are sane to get to Washington ASAP.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the outcome of Tuesday’s primary races in Georgia, Arkansas and Texas. Plus, a long-awaited report on Party Gate and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, we wanted to spend some more time on the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. On Tuesday, an 18-year old gunman killed at least 19 students and two teachers inside of a single classroom using an AR-15-style rifle. In addition to what we reported yesterday as the story was developing, here is a little more of what we know now. This happened during the school day at around 11:30 a.m. local time, but families waited into the night for details about their children. Some even had to submit DNA samples to help identify the remains. While officials haven’t confirmed the identities of the victims. Some family members have started to identify them publicly. Here are those who we know so far.
Gideon Resnick: Uziyah Garcia was eight-years old. He is the youngest victim to be identified so far. His grandfather shared that he was a sweet little boy who loved to play football. Amerie Jo Garza was ten-years old. She was reportedly shot as she tried to call 911. She had just been awarded an honor roll certificate earlier that day.
Priyanka Aribindi: Miate Yuleana was another fourth grader who was also celebrated as an honor roll student earlier on Tuesday. Javier Lopez, age ten, saw his mother for the last time during that same awards ceremony. He was a bubbly kid who loved to dance with his brothers and his mom.
Gideon Resnick: Alexandria Aniyah Rubio was also recognized at the ceremony for making the honor roll and receiving the Good Citizen Award. She posed with her parents for a photo there and they told her they’d pick her up after school. Alithia Ramirez was ten-years old. She loved to draw and wanted to be an artist when she grew up. Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke visited her home yesterday and said that the balloons from her 10th birthday were still up.
Priyanka Aribindi: Rogelio Torres was ten-years old. His mother described him as a, quote, very smart and loving child. Eliahna Cruz Torres was also ten years old. She was excited and nervous for her very last softball game of the season. Later that day.
Gideon Resnick: Jailah Nicole Silguero was a ten-year old student at Robb Elementary. She was killed alongside her ten-year old cousin, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos. Jacklyn Cazares was ten-years old. She was killed alongside her cousin Anabell Rodriguez, who was also ten. According to Annabell’s family, she was incredibly smart and loved to go to school.
Priyanka Aribindi: We still don’t have the details on everybody but other victims included. Nevaeh Bravo, Makenna Elrod, age ten, Jose Flores Jr age ten. Ellie Garcia, age ten. Tess Marie Mata, age ten, and Miranda Mathis, age 11. The two teachers killed were Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles. Garcia was a fourth grade teacher at Robb and a mother of four. She was in her 23rd year of teaching. Mireles was also a fourth grade teacher with one daughter at home. She had been an educator for 17 years. They both died trying to protect their students. In our show notes we’ll link to a local news station in Uvalde that has been sharing information about these victims.
Gideon Resnick: I never want to have to read the name of a child who is not with us anymore, ever again in my life.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, me either.
Gideon Resnick: In the time since, we’ve also learned more about the shooter and the events leading up to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary. So tell us a little more about that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, officials say that they’re still looking for answers about the gunman’s motive. But according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, about 30 minutes before arriving at the school, the gunman posted on Facebook that he was going to shoot his grandmother. He did so, and then posted to Facebook that he had. She survived and was able to get help from neighbors who called the police. She’s currently being hospitalized. The gunman’s final post read, quote, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.” This was about 15 minutes before he arrived at the school’s campus. According to Facebook, these had been private messages rather than public posts. These also mirror text messages that he reportedly sent to a girl in Germany who he met online. She later shared them with CNN. He indicated that he was annoyed with his grandmother because she took issue with his phone bill. It appears that the AR rifle that he used was purchased legally last week, just days after he turned 18. He bought two assault rifles along with 375 rounds of ammunition.
Gideon Resnick: Just insane that that is something that somebody can do.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: How are officials in Texas responding to this?
Priyanka Aribindi: Not well, in my opinion. They are repeatedly blaming mental health issues for causing this. Here is Governor Greg Abbott.
[clip of Gov. Greg Abbott] We have a problem with mental health illness in this community.
Priyanka Aribindi: But even as Abbott kind of shifted the blame here, he said that the shooter, quote, “had no known mental health history.” Obviously, people like Abbott have plenty of critics pointing at the state’s extremely lax gun laws. Beto O’Rourke is one of them. He spoke for a lot of people yesterday when he interrupted Abbott’s press conference. Videos show him approaching the stage where Abbott, Ted Cruz, and several other politicians were giving this conference. He accused them of doing nothing. Here is a clip of him speaking afterwards.
[clip of Beto O’Rourke] It is absolutely wrong. In fact, it is insane–the governor talks about mental health–it is insane that we allow an 18-year old to go in and buy an AR-15. What the hell did we think he was going to do with that? This one is on us.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I mean, there’s not much else to say. So let’s talk about those gun laws then. On the federal level, has there been any movement to actually make them stronger in the wake of the mass shootings we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, one would hope, but federal law currently does not ban the sale of assault rifles. Those were the weapons used both in Uvalde, Texas, and in the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York less than two weeks ago. As far as we know, both shooters were just 18-years old and were able to purchase their firearms legally. Although just days ago, Senator Dianne Feinstein reintroduced her bill to raise the age to be able to buy one of these weapons from 18 to 21. But yesterday morning, the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, told colleagues he wouldn’t immediately bring gun control measures to the floor for a vote. Those measures would likely fail because of Republicans’ staunch opposition. And so instead, he is choosing to wait for Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats to negotiate a bipartisan measure with a better chance of passing.
Gideon Resnick: Waiting seems to be the operative political tactic.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Not one that has worked in the past.
Gideon Resnick: No. So this is obviously a lot to take in. We’re going to continue to report more on all of this as we know more in the days ahead. But we also wanted to find out how this mass shooting is spurring local gun control activists into action. Earlier, we spoke with Nicole Golden. She is the executive director of Texas Gun Sense, a nonprofit advocacy group that works to make changes to state gun laws. Golden first got involved in gun reform work following the Sandy Hook shooting nearly ten years ago. We started by asking her how it feels to see such a similar tragedy occur now.
Nicole Golden: It’s a shattering experience. And then, of course, what I’m feeling pales in comparison to what I can only imagine the families of Uvalde are experiencing. But I’m a parent, and so I have to sort of compartmentalize to go on with the work that I do.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Yeah. President Biden renewed his call for Congress to, quote, “stand up to the gun lobby.” Do you expect that this is the straw that will break the camel’s back, so to speak, they will finally do something?
Nicole Golden: You know, I really appreciate the action Biden’s taken and his strong words not only about this, but also allocating federal money to community violence intervention programs. I think with regards to your tipping point question, I once saw a Sandy Hook parent speak and someone asked her a question about why wasn’t this the tipping point? And she said, You know, I think that sometimes it’s a tipping point, but it just takes a long time to tip. And so just kind of thinking about these things like Sandy Hook and like Uvalde and like so many others, so many I can’t name, they do spark public outrage and public support for gun violence prevention measures. Are they the spark for everything we need in this country? No. But you have to really approach this work as a chipping away strategy.
Gideon Resnick: And talking about the laws in Texas. Republicans have repeatedly relaxed gun laws in the past several years. We’re going to have a link to a story that details that in our show notes. But for example, last year, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that prevents any local or state agency from enforcing any new federal gun laws. So as we’re speaking after this in Texas, specifically, how much can we anticipate state lawmakers to change, be more serious about gun control laws? What is the immediate response here?
Nicole Golden: Working at the state level has been a real uphill climb. I’m not going to couch it any other way. It’s really been tough. We know that we’re on the right side. We know that we’re joined by many others. Last legislative sessions, law enforcement associations came out in opposition to removing licensing and training requirements to carry a handgun in Texas. So that just goes to show you the broad support from so many different voices against that reckless legislation. But yes, Governor Abbott signed permit-less carry, and even with that outpouring of opposition across the state. And while that passed forward, things that we fought for didn’t make it out of committee, like closing background check loopholes in the state so every gun sale requires background checks, extreme risk protection orders that allow law enforcement and works through a court system to temporarily remove firearms from someone who’s a risk to themselves or others.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, Texas is kind of renowned for being lax with gun laws and gun controls. It’s also been the site of multiple mass shootings over the past five years. There was another school shooting back in 2018 that was rather large. As an activist, how do you kind of sway Texans opinions on the issue despite that long history of gun culture?
Nicole Golden: You know, I’m real hopeful in working with Texans from all backgrounds because I’ve seen people step forward and say, you know, what can I do? I’m a gun owner. What can I do? People want to see change. It doesn’t matter who they’re affiliated with and whether or not they own a gun. If you talk one-on-one with people, they support these things. These are common sense, broad appeal measures. I especially find that when you talk to people about something like safe gun storage, for example, that can really pull people into a conversation and open up doors on the broader issue of gun violence prevention. Our message is moderate. It brings in all voices. And we’ve had a lot of success in meeting people where they are with that message.
Gideon Resnick: And beginning tomorrow, the NRA’s national convention is going to start in Houston with a lot of these politicians that we’re talking about scheduled to speak there. What do you make of that especially happening right now? What should people who want these changes to happen in Texas and across the country make of this?
Nicole Golden: The timing is horrendous. And I’ve had some people across the state already reach out and say, what’s going on? What actions are we taking? I understand their outrage. I think it’s terrible. The gun lobby has worked for a long time to push gun bills across state legislatures and at a federal level that are harmful and keep really sensible things from passing. We have often been the opposing voice, sometimes the only one in the room here at our state legislature, but I think we speak for most people, and I don’t think that the things that they work toward do.
Priyanka Aribindi: I want to know what is giving you hope at this point in time that there might be substantive change, that this isn’t one in a long line of really sad things that will continue to happen, and that there will be something tangible to come out of your work.
Nicole Golden: We’ve had people offering tools from larger organizations. We’ve had donations coming in. We’ve had people saying, I’m ready. I’ve had enough. I’m ready to join in. The movement gives me hope. And having seen the movement grow and get stronger over the course of the ten years I’ve been around gives me a great deal of hope, even when policy outcomes have been discouraging.
Gideon Resnick: Well, thank you again, Nicole. We really appreciate it.
Nicole Golden: Thanks, y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was our conversation with Nicole Golden, the Executive Director of Texas Gun Sense. If you want to get involved, learn more or donate, please check out txgunsense dot org. We will add a link to it in our show notes.
Gideon Resnick: We’re also going to link to a few more resources to help people in Uvalde right now. More on all this very soon, but that is the latest we have for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Trump-backed candidate saw mixed results during Tuesday’s primary elections in different states. In Georgia, the former president funneled millions into former senator and Blue Jean-wearing multi-millionaire David Perdue’s campaign for governor. But Perdue lost to current Republican Governor Brian Kemp Tuesday night by a whopping 50 percentage points.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s so many.
Gideon Resnick: Not close. Many points. Representative Jody Hice, who Trump also endorsed, lost his race for Georgia secretary of state to Brad Raffensperger, another one of Trump’s many enemies. Trump’s pick did better in Arkansas. His former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who we all had hoped would remain in the past forever, won her primary race for governor by a landslide. In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey avoided a runoff by winning a majority of the vote, beating back eight primary challengers. But some races remained too close to call on Tuesday night. In Texas, the House race between incumbent Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros is neck and neck, though Cuellar has already declared victory. The Associated Press reported that there was just a mere 175-vote difference between the two candidates yesterday, and the stakes here are pretty high. Cuellar, a Democrat who got support from the party establishment while being both pro-gun and anti-abortion, is fighting with Cisneros to represent Texas’s 28th District, which is majority Latino. And Republicans are determined to flip the seat in November.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m not particularly sure why, given if Cuellar keeps his seat, that doesn’t really seem like they need to be working that hard. An update on the baby formula shortage in the U.S.: new reporting shows that while a whistleblower sent a report to the FDA last year warning it about the unsanitary conditions at Michigan’s Abbott infant formula factory, the FDA’s top food safety official literally missed the memo and didn’t see it until four months after it was sent.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: Allegedly the memo got lost in the mail room of all places.
Gideon Resnick: Wow. Wow, wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: By the time I got to Frank Yiannas, the deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, one infant had already died after consuming Abbott’s formula and two others were hospitalized. It was only after another infant died that the factory recalled its formula and shut down operations. Dr. Robert Califf, chief of the FDA, testified at two House committee hearings yesterday, acknowledging his agency’s failure to act quickly to address the issue. And he described the, quote, “egregiously unsanitary environment of the Michigan plant.” According to him, the roof was leaking and there were cracks in the factory’s equipment where bacteria grew and contaminated its products. Califf also said that he and the Justice Department work together to fix these issues. An Abbott nutrition said that it already plans to reopen its Michigan plant next week so that new formula would be available for purchase around June 20th.
Gideon Resnick: At least that’s coming relatively soon, is a slight positive.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, who knows if that is slightly reassuring at this point or not?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I don’t know.
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know.
Gideon Resnick: One corporation’s commitment to compassion and understanding hit a dollar sign-shaped snag this week, and they’ve changed course as a result. State Farm Insurance announced yesterday that they had dropped their support for an organization called the Gender Cool Project, which helps teach young people about what it means to be transgender and non-binary, after conservatives complained, State Farm had partnered with Gender Cool to donate educational books about LGBTQ+ topics to schools and libraries. These efforts were focused in Florida, where the state’s Don’t Say Gay Law has threatened any discussion of these topics at all. Push back from places like the bad faith Twitter account Libs of Tik Tok led State Farm to back off. In a statement, State Farm said, quote, “Conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents. We no longer support the program allowing for distribution of books in schools.” OK. It’s all a reminder to resist the powerful urge to stan insurance companies with horrible jingles. Thankfully, the folks at Gender Cool say the publicity from this whole fiasco has led to an outpouring of support for their organization from non State Farm entities.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I think this is a chance for Progressive to step up to earn that name. Take it over. You could do it. Be a hero. Be a legend.
Gideon Resnick: It seems like a gimme. Right? It seems like a gimme.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Very easy way to win points. There is a reason UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with such a strong accent–just wait for it–he is wasted. And this is made clear by a series of booze-fueled gatherings held at the Prime Minister’s residence in the height of COVID, which were the subject of a long-awaited report released by the British government yesterday. Written by a senior civil servant who I’m sure would have rather been doing anything else–
Gideon Resnick: Probably yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: The report on quote unquote “Party Gate” found that 83 people, including Johnson, broke lockdown rules at the events which were held between May 2020 and April 2021. The ale was flowing at these events, and at times it seems like attendees did manage to beat the COVID odds and party like it was 2019. The report mentions at least one physical fight, at least one person getting sick, and at least one time that someone damaged the Prime Minister’s son swing set–oh, my God! The report places blame for the party squarely on the shoulders of senior leadership who allowed them to go on and gave junior staffers the sense that the parties were okay. Johnson apologized and took responsibility for the events in Parliament yesterday. But he also gave this explanation for why he thought turning up with his staff during lockdown was basically a good deed:
[clip of Boris Johnson] I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership. And particularly important, [laughter]–
Priyanka Aribindi: Sir!
[clip of Boris Johnson] –and particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions have been appreciated.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry. I can’t get enough of everybody laughing their asses off.
Gideon Resnick: Laughing, yeah, immediately. Unbelievable.
Priyanka Aribindi: Incredibly funny.
Gideon Resnick: Nice try, I guess.
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. Much of the criticism that has been directed at Johnson stems from his initial denials of the Party Gate allegations. Leaders of opposition parties called for his resignation yesterday. A YouGov poll indicates that just under 60% of UK residents agree that he should step down.
Gideon Resnick: I hope that in this report there is something a little bit more extensive on the events that impacted this swing set and what the status of it is now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I want to know if it’s repaired. Justice for the swing set.
Gideon Resnick: Were we pushing people too hard in it? Were we swinging it too hard ourselves and something happened to the links? What happened to the swing?
Priyanka Aribindi: We need the details. We need the details. I mean, you threw this in here. You thought we weren’t going to ask. Please, I have questions. You have questions. We all have questions.
Gideon Resnick: I will be interviewing the individual who damaged set swing set.
Priyanka Aribindi: With a voice changer.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, exactly. Right. They’re in witness protection at this point for sure. Those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: there is something really exciting coming up for Crooked–more than exciting, I’d say it’s energizing. Can you guess what it is?
Gideon Resnick: We’re all being given batteries.
Priyanka Aribindi: Close. Maybe. Not quite. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s delicious. So keep an eye out for something coming too Crooked soon.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, resist the temptation to stan State Farm, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just the lurid details of Party Gate like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I am Gideon Resnick.
[together] And fix Boris Johnson’s son’s swing set.
Gideon Resnick: Please. It is in disrepair and a lot of people are talking about it.
Priyanka Aribindi: It will eat away at me and mostly Gideon until the status of this is known. Please.
Gideon Resnick: We have to find out.
Priyanka Aribindi: I would like him to speak about it on the floor of Parliament, perhaps to some laughs.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Boris Johnson getting booed and laughed at once again for talking about his son’s damaged swing set. Make it happen. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.