Unsplash by Chip Vincent

South Carolina leaders have reacted with a mix of grief, anger, frustration and compassion in the wake of a deadly school shooting Tuesday afternoon in Texas.

At least 19 children and two adults were shot and killed by an 18-year-old gunman in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., in the deadliest school shooting since the infamous Sandy Hook massacre almost a decade ago. 

The gunman was shot and killed by responding law enforcement officers at the scene. The shooting came just a little more than a week after a racially motivated mass shooting in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket. 

“We witness these shootings again and again, and nothing ever changes,” gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham tweeted. “I’m devastated for the people of Uvalde as they deal with the unthinkable. But I’m also angry. Angry at the politics around this issue and the politicians who stand in the way of doing anything to solve it.”

Cunningham isn’t alone, as Democratic leaders announced plans to combat gun violence while Republican counterparts, including S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., offered thoughts and prayers on social media, but no plans for action. 

“Psalm 34 tells us that the Lord is near to the broken hearted,” tweeted Scott. “I was devastated to learn of the children and teacher senselessly murdered today in Texas. Please join me in lifting up their families in prayer.”

“Tonight, please join Peggy and me in praying for the Uvalde community, the faculty and staff at Robb Elementary, and for the families of the victims of today’s tragedy,” tweeted McMaster. 

“We live in a country where the powerful few set the political agenda for all parties,” said S.C. Rep. J.A. Moore, D-Charleston. “Even though it disgusts me — and makes me sick to my stomach — I am not frustrated. I am motivated. I’m resolved. No matter how much pain I am in right now, I’m focused. I’m ready to fight.”

Moore said at the national level, he is speaking with leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris to urge President Joe Biden to act on gun violence through executive orders to break through political gridlock. He also said he is speaking with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Scott about “doing what’s right.”

“We need to call it out as we see it,” he said. “We are not going to get tired. We are going to continue to do the work. Progress doesn’t come because you wish for it — it comes because you work for it. And I’m going to do the damn work.”

Graham, striking a different tone from the general Republican talking points,  said Tuesday night he welcomes a debate over what these steps should look like. 

“Hopefully, over time, we will have a better understanding of what led to these senseless acts,” he wrote on Twitter. “As to what to do next, I welcome a debate in the U.S. Senate about any and all measures that my colleagues believe will have an effect. Let’s debate and vote.”

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-Columbia, publicly said the time for action is long overdue. U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has reportedly taken the first procedural step needed to bring Clyburn’s bill — the Enhanced Background Checks Act, to the Senate floor. Clyburn’s bill seeks to finally close the Charleston loophole that allows those who would go on to be mass shooters to legally purchase firearms by extending background check deadlines. 

Cunningham has harsher words for political opponents who he calls “political obstructionists.” 

“I have been a leader on common-sense gun reform my entire political career,” he said in a statement. “Not only did I sponsor and support legislation in Congress, but I released a plan to tackle gun violence in South Carolina almost a year ago. Not a damn thing has been done since I released that plan because our state’s leadership has sold their souls for political points in their primary.

“To every parent in South Carolina: you shouldn’t have to live in fear of losing your child at the hand of senseless gun violence,” he added. “To every student in South Carolina: you shouldn’t have to go to school each day in fear that you won’t make it home alive. To everyone who is just as furious as I am: turn that anger into action. Vote. Them. All. Out.”