BY LI COHEN JULY 15, 2022 / 11:11 AM / CBS NEWS
NOTE THE DATE: Almost a year ago. There are more deaths to add. WHEN IS ENOUGH - ENOUGH?
Those buses just visited Ted Cruz.
One pinwheel for every 1,000 children in front of Calhoun County Democratic HQ
Fifty-two buses would normally be filled with more than 4,000 laughing and joking children on their way to school. On Thursday, every single one of those seats was empty – representing the 4,368 children who have died from gun violence in the past two years – as the mile-long procession made its way to the downtown office of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
The convoy of school buses is called the NRA Children's Museum, spearheaded by anti-gun violence advocacy organization Change the Ref.
Along with the eerie silence of killed children, some of the buses also contain exhibits – photos, videos, audio recordings and belongings of those who have been killed. Among the items — a kindergarten graduation card and red woven gloves from Chase Kowalski, who was 7 when he was killed during the Sandy Hook massacre, and the checkered Vans of Gracie Muehlberger, who was 15 when she was shot and killed at school in Santa Clarita, California.
A May report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that firearms were the leading cause of death for children in 2020. The agency found that more than five of every 100,000 kids aged 19 and younger were killed by a gun. Early data from 2021 showed the number was continuing to rise.
In a press release, Change the Ref said that the thousands of tragic endings for children were partly made possible by politicians' actions. They specifically pointed to Texas senators and representatives, who according to nonprofit organization OpenSecrets, have received more than $14 million combined in contributions from gun rights interests.
TO SEE THE VIDEO OF CRUZ, THE BUSES, AND MORE
This "horrific historic moment" is why they showed up to see Cruz in person, Change the Ref co-founder Manuel Oliver said. Oliver's son Joaquin was one of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
"This is only the beginning," Oliver said in a statement. "We will not stop with Sen. Ted Cruz. To every politician who has stood by, taken NRA money, and refused to listen to the people they represent: the museum is on the way to honor you next."
As part of the convoy and its mission, Oliver and his wife, Patricia Oliver, also delivered what they called a "gift" to Cruz – a letter from Joaquin.
The letter, dated February 12, 2013 – almost five years to the day before he was killed on Valentine's Day 2018 – is addressed to gun owners. "Most of you have a problem with the idea of a universal back round [sic] check. Why are you mad that there's a back round [sic] check it's for your own good maybe you are fond of having crazy people with death machines," he wrote, 12 years old at the time.
It wasn't until three weeks ago that President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhances background checks for those under 21. The bill, however, does not mandate universal background checks.
"The hope is that this gift will spark a realization and understanding that receiving political donations from the NRA and other gun lobbyists isn't worth an innocent child's life," Change the Ref said in a statement, adding that the group is asking Sen. Cruz to "immediately renounce future political funding from the NRA."
The Olivers posted photos on social media of them outside of Sen. Cruz's office and urged him to read the letter they delivered. Cruz has not made a public statement about the letter, but instead on Friday morning posted a video on Twitter about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border captioned: "Do Democrats not care about the children being assaulted because of Joe Biden's policies?"
"This chaos, the crime, the misery, the abuse – it is inhumane, it's horrific and it's wrong," he said in the short clip that he said was taken at the Rio Grande Valley.