President Biden on Tuesday night said the “gun lobby” is responsible for US mass shootings and called for new gun control laws after a gunman murdered 18 children and two adults at an elementary school in Texas.
“As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden said in remarks from the White House just before 9 pm
“It’s been 3,448 days — 10 years — since I stood up at… a grade school in Connecticut where another gunman massacred 26 people including 20 first graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, there have been over 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds.”
Biden added, “The list grows when you include mass shootings at places like movie theaters, houses of worship and as we saw just 10 days ago, at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.”
Salvador Ramos, 18, allegedly shot his grandmother before arriving around noon local time at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said he was armed with two assault rifles that he bought on his 18th birthday.
“We can’t and won’t prevent every tragedy, but we know [gun laws] work and have a positive impact. When we passed the Assault Weapons Ban [in 1994], mass shootings went down. When the law expired [in 2004]mass shootings tripled,” Biden said.
“The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons, it’s just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on for God’s sake,” Biden said.
“It’s just sick. And the gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit. For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”
Biden concluded by noting the US has more mass shootings than other countries and calling for new gun control laws.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone — to have the courage to deal with it and stand up the lobbies? It’s time to turn this pain into action. For every parent, for every citizen of this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country, it’s time to act,” Biden said.
“It’s time for those who obstruct or delay or block the common-sense gun laws we need to let you know that we will not forget. We can do so much more. We have to do more.”
Biden learned of the shooting as he returned from a trip to South Korea and Japan aboard Air Force One.
The White House released a photo of Biden speaking on the phone with Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) from his desk on the presidential aircraft. In a proclamation, Biden ordered flags to half staff over federal buildings through Saturday.
Ramos died at the scene of the massacre, authorities said. The attack is similar to the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In that case, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before murdering 26 people at the Connecticut school.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the tragedy about an hour before Biden, saying “enough is enough.”
“As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again,” Harris said at a DC gala for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
But any gun law reforms will remain a tough sell in Congress. Most bills require 60 votes in the Senate and Democrats control just 50 seats.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) told a scrum of reporters Tuesday evening that he doesn’t support changing the 60-vote threshold for legislation.
“The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity,” Manchin said, explaining he wanted “common sense” gun reforms without changing Senate rules.
The shooting occurred one day before the Senate confirmation hearing for Steven Dettelbach to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Also Wednesday, Biden will announce new restrictions on transfers of military equipment to police and the creation of an officer-misconduct registry on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
Last month, Biden said his administration would attempt to ban “ghost gun” kits via regulation to close a loophole that allows businesses to sell most AR-15 semiautomatic rifle parts without a federal background check along with a partially complete “lower receiver” part that buyers then finish off at home.
During remarks last month, Biden also called on Congress to pass laws to ban what he called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to mandate background checks for all private gun transfers. He also said Congress should impose a blanket ban on owning guns without serial numbers and repeal liability protections for gunmakers.
Congress rarely passes gun policy legislation, meaning most change takes place through regulation. In 2018, for example, the Trump administration banned “bump stocks” that hasten the firing rate of semiautomatic rifles after that tool was used to murder 60 people at a Las Vegas concert.