Former Democratic Congress member Beto O'Rourke on Wednesday interrupted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's news conference to criticize his response to the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 students and two adults.
"Governor, I have to say something," O'Rourke, who is running to replace Abbott, said as he approached the stage. "You're doing nothing. You're offering us nothing. You said this was not predictable — this is totally predictable when you choose to do nothing."
O'Rourke's comment came after Abbott confirmed that 19 students from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, and two staff members, were killed by an 18-year-old gunman on Tuesday in what is now the deadliest grade school shooting in the US since Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
Abbott praised the response of law enforcement and called the shooter a "demented person" with "evil in his heart."
Abbott then centered his comments around mental health, stating that local officials had stressed a problem with mental health in the community. The comments came as the US is sure to debate ways to address what has become an endemic repetition of mass shootings, a uniquely American tragedy that sparks national debate over gun control laws, but has time and again lead to no meaningful legislation in states or the federal level.
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of Wednesday, at least 17,207 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Abbott's comments came just minutes after he stated that the shooter had no known mental health history issues or a criminal background. According to officials, he legally purchased the AR-15 that was used in the massacre.
O'Rourke's confrontation led to the gubernatorial candidate being led out of the auditorium, but not before officials in the auditorium accused the Democrat of politicizing a tragedy.
"Excuse me," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, trying to stop O'Rourke from speaking. "You're out of line and an embarrassment."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also stood behind Abbott and was heard telling O'Rourke repeatedly, "Sit down."
"He needs to get his ass out of here. This isn't the place to talk," a man sitting alongside the lawmakers said. "Sir, please leave the auditorium. I can't believe, you're a sick son of a bitch to come to a deal like this and make a political issue."
O'Rourke was escorted out of the building by police, but turned around once more to address officials.
"This is on you until you choose to do something different," he said. "This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.
Outside, O'Rourke continued to attack Abbott's lack of support for safe storage requirements, bans on assault weapons, and red flag laws.
"Why are we letting this happen in this country?" he said. "This is on all of us if we don't do something."
Inside, Rep. Dade Phelan, speaker of the Texas legislature, apologized to the city's mayor for O'Rourke's outburst.
"Now is not the time to politicize pain and suffering," he said.