Salvador Ramos turned 18 on May 16. He celebrated the next day with a visit to Oasis Outback, a department store in Uvalde, Texas, with sports and outdoor gear, camping and hunting gear, and a gun store. According to authorities, that's where he bought an assault rifle. The next day, abundant ammunition. And, to the other, a new assault weapon. A few days later, he unloaded one of them against a fourth-grade class at an elementary school in his town. He killed 19 children and his two teachers, in the latest tragedy of gun violence in the US.
Ramos bought his assault rifles legally.
He was of legal age, almost the only requirement to access these military-style weapons and which appear recurrently in this type of massacre. It didn't matter that he had obvious mental health and sociability problems, that he had recently developed violent behavior, or that he had self-harmed. None of this is recorded or asked when someone is going to buy a rifle, a custom in Texas, with a well-established culture of firearms ownership.
"Get out of here immediately," was the response of the clerk -hunting clothes, a flat cap- after identification as a member of the press. “If you are recording or taking images, I will call the police,” he continued. Faced with the denial that this was happening and the request to speak with a person in charge of the establishment, the clerk insisted: «Get out now. This is private property and we can decide who gets in. Get outside the boundaries of the establishment.” The clerk also did not allow this journalist to take pictures of the business from the parking lot.
The elementary school massacre has reignited a national debate about limiting access to guns. Especially assault rifles like the ones hanging on the walls of this shop's armory.
Oasis Outback was under investigation years ago in an ammunition smuggling case. The establishment sold more than 10,000 units of ammunition to an Eagle Pass (Texas) businessman who later distributed them to drug cartels in Mexico. Uvalde is just over an hour from the Piedras Negras border crossing.
An anonymous person in charge of Oasis Outback assured this week to 'The New York Times' that the establishment was cooperating with the authorities in the investigation of the shooting at the Uvalde school.