Less than a week after Kimberly Mata-Rubio returned to her job to assist writers at the local newspaper in Uvalde, Texas, the news of a shooting near her daughter and son’s elementary school broke. Within hours, Mata-Rubio would learn that on May 24, her 10-year-old daughter, Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, had been killed, along with 18 other children and two teachers, by a teenager with a violent history who was easily able to get his hands on an assault weapon.
Mata-Rubio tells Daily Kos that the day was like any other, except on that day, Lexi received a Good Citizen Award and an award for being on the honor roll. Mata-Rubio says she snapped a photo of her daughter, and her husband took her back to work.
“I was just sitting at my desk writing a story about a new business in town and chatting with the editorial crew when we started hearing the scanner go off about a shooting. Nothing new. I've covered crime before, so I was just trying to pay attention to that. And then the [Robb Elementary] school was on lockdown. Things get very hazy from there for me. I don't remember much other than I needed to get to the school. So I found a ride, and from there, it's just parents and police, and you realize it's serious,” Mata-Rubio says.
RELATED STORY: Kids who survived the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting share their stories
She says she and the other parents were sent to the civic center to wait for news about their kids. The families waited for buses to arrive, but Lexi was not on any of them. Mata-Rubio sent her father to look at a local hospital, and even a local funeral home.
“I think it was starting to become a little more obvious that she's likely not coming home … And I just had this overwhelming urge to go back to Robb [Elementary School],” she says. She then decided to walk back to the school. After running across four lanes of traffic to get to the school, she says she just kept running. “Once I started running, I just didn't stop. I just went all the way. It's a mile, and as I've said, I felt like I was at the right place there. Like I was with her,” she says.
Mata-Rubio and her husband Felix, a sheriff’s deputy and Iraq War veteran, were eventually taken aside and told that their daughter had been a victim of the shooting.
In the months that followed that tragic day, in addition to working, raising their five other children, and finishing her bachelor’s degree, Mata-Rubio has become an activist fighting for a federal ban on assault rifles.
Of course, on the state level, she wants to raise the age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21 years old and increase background checks for gun purchases.
“But ultimately, my goal is a complete ban. I want a federal ban on assault weapons because I don't know if my state will ever get on board with that. So I have to take it to the federal level,” Mata-Rubio says.
“We’ve done five trips to D.C. to speak with senators, Republicans and Democrats, anyone who’ll listen, sharing Lexi's story, trying to reach out to moms and dads. I feel like a lot of times, we just talk about it on the political spectrum, and it's so much more, and these are our babies. So if I can reach moms and dads and say, hey, we all have this one thing in common. We want to save our children. We want our children to grow up. Then we have to work for change together. And that is a federal ban on assault weapons.”
Mata-Rubio is not the only Uvalde parent or shooting survivor fighting for gun reform in the state. During a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 5, Uvalde community members rightfully raised hell.
“So here we are 19 weeks since our lives were completely destroyed by gun violence, and not a single effort has been made by our current governor to prevent this from ever happening again,” said Marissa Lozano, sister of Irma Garcia, who died in the Robb Elementary School shooting. “Greg Abbott has refused to take action and has declined to even consider our valid concerns on sensible gun laws.
“So now the hometown of former Vice President [John Nance] Garner will forever be historically known to the world [as a place that had] one of the worst mass shootings,” Lozano said.
Mata-Rubio says sometimes she’s able to sway lawmakers to her side. Other times, not so much.
“I've spoken with [Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut], who is a champion for gun reform. Other times, I met with Senator Ted Cruz and Senator John Cornyn, who told me, this just isn't possible. My answer to that is if they won't work to save the lives of children, then they just have to be voted out,” Mata-Rubio says. “Why we would choose guns over children is not something I can comprehend.”
As for the questions circling around why law enforcement didn’t do anything that day to go in and try to save the kids, Mata-Rubio says investigations are still ongoing, which is frustrating. Decisions won’t be made until after the election, of course.
“As far as suspensions or firings or anything like that, as you know, the school district has been a little more proactive. They suspended the entire police force. They fired Police Chief Pete Arredondo. We're just we're waiting. We're waiting for answers,” she says.
According to CNN, seven Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers are being investigated for what they did, or mostly what they did not do, to save the lives of the children and teachers.
Just last week, it was discovered that Crimson Elizondo, one of the troopers who first responded to the shooting at Robb Elementary, had been hired to work at Mata-Rubio’s son’s new temporary elementary school building. The school has since terminated Elizondo’s employment.
On the day of the Robb Elementary shooting, Elizondo was heard on her body camera footage saying, “If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that,” CNN reported.
“Elizondo was one of the first of the 91 DPS officers to arrive, one of the 376 total law enforcement personnel who went to the school where the shooter was left for 77 minutes – with dead, dying, and traumatized victims – before he was stopped,” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz writes.
When I ask Mata-Rubio how she copes with her daughter’s death and has the energy to keep fighting in Texas, of all places, for gun reform, she says she is determined.
“No one can fix this for me. My daughter's gone. I have to fix it for other people. I have to be there for moms and their children. I don't mind staying busy. It's better that way. I don't like being alone with my thoughts, so I've just kind of poured myself into activism. It's my purpose now.”
She says one of her daughters gave an interview to a French news outlet recently and told them she was proud of her parents.
“That's encouraging to hear,” Mata-Rubio says. “I hope that they recognize that what we're doing is important.”
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