UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on Sunday offered comfort to a grieving and angry city as they memorialized the 19 students and two teachers killed in a Texas elementary school mass shooting. But respected.
Uvalde’s visit was Biden’s second visit in as many weeks to console a community in mourning following the staggering loss from a shooting. He traveled to Buffalo, New York, on May 17 to meet with the families of victims and condemn white supremacy after a shooter advocating a racist “replacement theory” killed 10 black people in a supermarket.
Outside Robb Elementary School, Biden stopped at a memorial of 21 white crosses – one for each of those killed – and the first lady added a bouquet of white flowers to the pile in front of the school’s sign. He saw separate altars erected in memory of each student, and the first lady touched the pictures of the children as the couple moved along the row.
The shootings and subsequent events in Texas and New York shed a new light on the country’s strong divisions and its inability to build consensus on action to reduce gun violence.
“Evil came in that elementary school classroom in Texas, in that grocery store in New York, in a lot of places where innocent people have died,” Biden said in a commencement speech at the University of Delaware on Saturday. “We have to stand strong. We must stand strong. I know we can’t outlaw tragedy, but we can make America safer.”
After visiting the memorial, Biden arrived for Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where a nearby teacher held a sign that said, “Mr. President, thank you for coming. I’m a teacher.” Later, the president plans to meet privately with family members at the community center and then return to Washington with first responders at the airport, the White House said. He was not expected to make any formal comments.
Mackinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Elijah Torres was killed on Tuesday, said she respected Biden’s decision to mourn with the people of Uvalde.
“It’s more than mourning,” she said. “We want change. We want action. This is something that happens over and over again. Mass shootings happen. It’s on the news. People cry. Then it’s gone. Nobody cares. And then.” It happens. And then.”
“If there’s anything I can tell Joe Biden, as it is, just to respect our community while he’s here, and I’m sure he will,” she said. “But we need change. We need to do something about it.”
Biden’s visit comes amid growing scrutiny of the police’s response to the shooting. Officials revealed on Friday that students and teachers repeatedly pleaded with 911 operators for help, while a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect was locked inside an adjacent orbit and there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation caused more grief and raised new questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not act swiftly to stop the gunman, who was eventually killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
“It’s easy to point fingers at the moment,” said Uvalde County Commissioner Ronnie Garza on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Our community needs to focus on healing right now.”
Officials have said the shooter had legally purchased two guns shortly before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and another on May 20. He was only 18 years old, he was allowed to buy weapons under federal law.
Biden said on Saturday that something had to change in response to the attack.
“I call on all Americans at this time to join hands and make your voices heard, to work together to make this nation what it can and should be,” Biden said. “I know we can do it. We’ve done it before.”
Hours after the shooting, Biden had made a passionate plea for additional gun control legislation, asking: “When will we stand in front of the gun lobby, in the name of God? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we let this happen?”
Over the years, Biden has been involved in the gun control movement’s most notable successes, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban, and its most troubling disappointments, including the new massacre following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Failure to pass legislation is also included. , Connecticut.
As president, Biden has tried to address gun violence through executive orders. He now has few new options, but given Washington’s sharp divisions over gun control legislation, executive action may be best for the president.
In Congress, members of a bipartisan group of senators were negotiating over the weekend to see if they could reach a modest inclusion on gun safety legislation after a decade of mostly unsuccessful attempts.
Encourage state “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental health issues, as well as address school safety and mental health resources, said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading the effort.
While there isn’t enough support from Republicans in Congress for comprehensive gun safety proposals popular with the public, including a weapons ban or universal background checks on gun purchases, Murphy, D-Conn, told ABC’s “This Week” that These other considerations are “not unimportant.”
The group will meet again this week under a 10-day deadline to strike a deal.
“There are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a way forward this time,” said Murphy, who represented the Newtown area as a congressman at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting. “And, finally, may my heart be broken, I’m at the table with more Republicans and Democrats right now than ever before.”
Associated Press Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Associated Press Video Journalist Robert Bumstead in Uvalde, Texas contributed to this report.
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting