Parkland parent, Sandy Hook survivor speak out on Texas school shooting

Manuel Oliver and Mary Ann Jacob speak on the surge of deadly gun violence.

May 25, 2022, 2:57 PM

Nineteen children and two teachers are among those killed Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a small rural town. The gunman, who has been identified as an 18-year-old who attended the local high school, is also dead, according to authorities.

As the country is left reeling in the wake of another mass shooting, Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, and Mary Ann Jacob, who survived the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut in 2012, speak on the surge of deadly gun violence.

A bus drives past a sign reading Welcome to Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 4, 2013.
Jessica Hill/AP, FILE

“I think we all thought after the shooting at Sandy Hook School when 20 first-graders died and six teachers, that would drive change and if that was true, then Manuel wouldn’t be on TV with us tonight losing Joaquin, and these parents wouldn't be going through what they’re going through today,” Jacob told ABC News Live Prime.

It is nearly 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting - one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. On that day, Jacob saved 19 children by barricading them in a closet.

Since then, there have been nearly 980 active and non-active school shooting situations, according to data from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Naval Postgraduate School.

People gather at Robb Elementary School, the scene of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, 2022.
Nuri Vallbona/Reuters

“It is shocking to me really that after seeing all the different communities it has happened in, we still don't believe that it can happen in our own community and if we’re not willing to do something,” said Jacob. “Our legislatures are not going to do anything, unless we push them to do something. So vote for people who care about what you care about and make sure that they are going to drive change.”

Jacob said there is no way to shield American children from gun violence, but there is a way to make change through legislative and political action.

“There really is no way to protect your kids from it. I mean your kids are affected just like every kid in the country by watching on TV, knowing other kids who have died, hiding under their desks during active shooter drills,” said Jacob. “But there is a way to change it and that's by electing people and making sure that the people you elect are accountable for what we need to be doing and every single person in America ought to be doing that.”

Sandy Hook Elementary School library clerk Mary Ann Jacob speaks to the press in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
Robert MacPherson/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., delivered an impassioned argument on the Senate floor late Tuesday afternoon. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are among the political leaders who have spoken out and are demanding change.

Oliver lost his son Joaquin in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and more injured. The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was 19 years old at the time.

Oliver said it shouldn’t have taken another school shooting for a national debate on gun laws.

“The myth behind the ‘good guy with the gun’ is just broken after what happened today in Texas. Where there are a lot of ‘good guys with guns,’” said Oliver.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver, parents of Parkland High School shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, speak to the media in Miami, June 5, 2018.
Brynn Anderson/AP, FILE

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. Nearly 1 out of 10 gun deaths are among those 19 and younger.

Oliver said he cannot offer any comforting words for parents who have lost a child to gun violence.

“There is no comfort possible here,” said Oliver. “You need to take advantage of those cameras today to expose your anger, your sadness, your frustration. Not only to our leaders, we’re talking about corporations here that allow this to happen... This is something that happens only in America. We are known all around the world for this.”

He added that other parents should realize that the same thing could happen to their own child.

“I don’t need to worry about losing my kid because I already lost him - but you do. It’s not about one person, or your kids, in particular, but everyone in America,” said Oliver. “We provide those guns. We provide those inactions. [Children] should go to school like I went to school, have fun, enjoy the day and go back home. Make them stay safe.”