Kimberly Mata-Rubio didn’t consider herself a political person. She voted, but she wasn’t an activist; she had opinions, but she was soft-spoken. Then her daughter Lexi was murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022, along with 18 other students and two teachers. In the year that followed, Kim got political. She got loud. With her husband, Felix, at her side, Kim joined the ever-growing ranks of parents whose children have been killed by guns in schools, malls, parks, and homes — parents who, touched by unspeakable tragedy, are begging for U.S. politicians to enact serious gun control:

Kim and Felix each wore a button with Lexi’s image on it. [Ted] Cruz sat casually, with one of his trademark cowboy boots crossed over his knee. A staffer handed him a Diet Dr Pepper.

Felix pulled out his cellphone and showed Cruz a photo of Lexi in her casket. “That’s our daughter who was murdered at Robb Elementary.” Kim then said she and Felix hoped they could count on the senator’s support for an assault weapons ban. She was about to say more, but Cruz jumped in and told Kim and Felix about his own plan to stop school shootings: he wanted to put more law enforcement officers and more mental health services on school campuses. 

A staffer gently interrupted the senator to say he had another appointment. The meeting had lasted less than five minutes, and Kim was not happy. As Cruz stood up to leave, Kim also rose, looked him in the eye, and snapped “You have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you are not reelected.” Before Cruz had a chance to say anything else, Kim walked out of the office, followed by Felix. A spokesman for the senator later said the senator “saw firsthand” the Rubios’ “pain and grief.” But Cruz wasn’t changing his position on guns. In fact, the spokesman said, right after his meeting with the Rubios, Cruz went to the Senate floor “to fight for his school safety legislation.” 

Kim was so dismayed by the meeting with Cruz that she began wearing a T-shirt—yellow for Lexi—with the phrase “You f@#ked with the wrong mom” on the back. She had a tattoo artist ink one of Lexi’s drawings of her and Lexi on her upper left arm, and she rolled up her sleeves so that anyone could see it. “The inaction of our political leaders is the reason my daughter is no longer here,” she told me. “And I am never going to let them forget that.”