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World leaders ‘horrified’ by ‘murder of innocent children’ in Texas

Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., after the shooting massacre on May 24. (Allison Dinner/AFP/Getty Images)
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Leaders around the world condemned the shooting at an elementary school in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, describing it as “senseless” and “inconceivable” and calling out and comparing U.S. gun policy with that in other nations where mass shootings are less frequent.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country is battling Russia’s invasion, said it was “terrible, to have victims of shooters in peaceful time.”

Zelensky, speaking remotely during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he was “deeply saddened by the news of the murder of innocent children in Texas.” His foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Ukraine “shares the pain of our U.S. friends” as his country also loses “innocent young lives” because of the war.

Tuesday’s tragedy in Uvalde, Tex., was the deadliest mass shooting at an American school in nearly a decade. The killings came less than two weeks after another mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, which left 10 dead.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would be mourning with Americans. After the deadliest mass shooting in modern Canadian history in 2020, Trudeau announced a ban on more than 1,500 makes and models of “military-style assault weapons,” including the AR-15.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also said Israel “mourns together” with the American people. British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said she was “horrified.” Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union ambassador to the United States, called the violence “senseless.” Mexico’s government condemned the shooting — and pointed to the predominantly Hispanic population of the Texas town. Uvalde County, about 100 miles from Texas’s border with Mexico, is home to a large Mexican American population.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent his “condolences, pain and solidarity,” as well as “a big hug” to the families of the victims.

He said it was still not known whether Mexican nationals were among the victims — but added that he has no doubt that many of the victims are of Mexican origin. “Just look at the surnames; they are children, grandchildren of Mexicans and it hurts us a lot,” he said.

Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary said that an official was in Uvalde waiting for news about any Mexican nationals who might have been affected.

“The horror. This will continue to happen as long as weapons are readily available. Whether it’s the 1st economy in the world, the 15th or the 190th. Parents lose their children. We all lose. The only winner is the gun industry. Let’s hold them accountable,” wrote Salvador Tinajero, a deputy legal consultant for the Mexican secretariat of foreign affairs.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz called it an “inconceivable massacre” on Twitter on Wednesday, and French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that “19 victims were under age 10.”

“Children and teachers were murdered in a cowardly attack in their Texas school,” Macron said. “We share the shock and grief of the American people, and the rage of those who are fighting to end the violence.”

Gérard Araud, the former French ambassador to the United States during the Obama and Trump administrations, was blunter in his assessment of the shooting and U.S. gun laws: “A craziness without any prospect of improvement.”

The comment underscores how the Uvalde shooting is the latest in an epidemic in the United States — a stark contrast to many other developed countries, where such gun violence is rare, or even unheard of.

How countries around the world have responded to mass shootings

President Biden, back from a trip to South Korea and Japan, expressed frustration during a speech Tuesday evening, saying, “I just got off my trip from Asia, meeting with Asian leaders, and I learned of this while I was on the aircraft. What struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world.”

“Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes,” he continued. “They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why?”

This year alone, there have been 24 school shootings in the United States, according to a Washington Post database. Last year, the country saw at least 42 acts of gun violence committed on K-12 campuses during regular hours in 2021. It has experienced at least 132 school shootings since 2018.

More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, appearing on CBS’s “Late Show” on Tuesday night, said she viewed the assault not as a politician but as a mother. Her country adopted tougher gun laws after a man with a military-style rifle killed 51 people at two mosques in 2019.

“I think about what happened to us, and all I can reflect is: We are a very pragmatic people. When we saw something like that happen, everyone said, ‘Never again.’ And so then it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that.”

“Now, we have legitimate needs for guns in our country for things like peace control and to protect our biodiversity, but you don’t need a military-style semiautomatic weapon to do that. And so we got rid of that,” she added. Australia also adopted stricter gun laws after a mass shooting in 1996 left 35 people dead.

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) met with Ardern at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday to discuss, among other things, New Zealand’s rapid approach to enacting gun safety measures in 2019. The senator “shared views on the lessons for U.S. lawmakers following our nation’s failure to act in response to a series of mass shootings,” according to a statement from Markey’s team.

Biden voices grief and anger at shooting: ‘I am sick and tired of it’

Some researchers who have studied gun death figures say fatalities from firearms tend to be higher in areas where people have easy access to the weapons.

Amnesty International, the human rights group, goes a step further, assigning causality: Wide access to firearms and loose regulations lead to tens of thousands of deaths in the United States, its website says.

“Among wealthier, developed countries, the U.S.A. is an outlier when it comes to firearm violence,” it says. “U.S. governments have allowed gun violence to become a human rights crisis.”

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city “stands with Uvalde” — “and all those campaigning to enact laws to end these senseless and devastating attacks.”

Pope Francis said Wednesday that he was “heartbroken” by the Texas shooting and called for broader gun-control measures: “It is time to say ‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged the United States to “deeply reflect upon why it has become a country with the most serious gun violence in the world.” He said it was “unacceptable that no substantive measures have been taken by the US government to tackle these problems,” including “gun violence and “social discrimination.”

Jennifer Hassan, Adela Suliman and Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.

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