UVALDE, Texas — President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hope to comfort a city stricken with grief and anger as they meet with families affected by the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Sunday’s visit to Uvalde is Biden’s second trip in as many weeks to comfort a grieving community after a stunning loss. On May 17, he was in Buffalo, New York, to meet with families of victims and condemn white supremacy after a gunman espousing the racist “replacement theory” killed 10 black people in a supermarket.
The shootings in Texas and New York and their aftermath have exposed the country’s entrenched divisions and its inability to forge consensus on actions to reduce gun violence.
“Evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, to far too many places where innocent people died,” Biden said Saturday in a commencement address at the University of Delaware. “We have to be stronger. We must be stronger. We can’t ban tragedy, I know that, but we can make America safer.
Biden was due to visit the makeshift memorial outside Robb Elementary School before attending mass at a local Catholic church. He was also scheduled to meet with family members at a community center and then first responders at the local airport before returning to Washington, the White House said. We didn’t expect him to make formal remarks.
Mckinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Eliahana Torres was killed on Tuesday, said she respects Biden’s decision to grieve with the residents of Uvalde.
“It’s more than mourning,” she said. “We want change. We want action. It continues to be something that happens over and over and over again. A mass shooting occurs. It’s on the news. People are crying. Then it’s gone. Nobody cares. And then it happens again. And even.”
“If there’s anything if I could say to Joe Biden, as he is, just respect our community while he’s here, and I’m sure he will,” he said. -she adds. “But we need change. We have to do something about it.
The Bidens’ visit to Uvalde comes amid growing scrutiny of the police response to the shooting. Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly pleaded with 911 operators for help, even as a police commander asked more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect was barricaded in a nearby classroom and there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation prompted further angst and questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the shooter, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical agents.
State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, described an emotional encounter with the father of one of the shooting victims.
“He couldn’t let go. And I couldn’t let go. We were both crying at that time. It was so, so devastating,” said Gutierrez, who said the man’s daughter was shot in the back.
“She probably bled, according to the first responder. Who can know what would have happened to that little girl, if the agents had shown up, in a timely manner, if they had come in, in a timely manner? Gutierrez told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
On Wednesday, before details of the agents’ belated response were known, Biden had praised their efforts, saying “brave local agents and Border Patrol agents stepped in to save as many children as possible.”
Authorities said the shooter legally purchased two weapons shortly before the school attack: an AR-type rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, which allowed him to purchase the guns under federal law.
Speaking on Saturday, Biden said something had to change in response to the attack.
“I call on all Americans in this hour to join hands and raise their voices, to work together to make this nation what it can and should be,” Biden said. “I know we can do it. We have already done that.”
Hours after the shooting, Biden launched an impassioned plea for additional gun control legislation, asking, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? »
With Jill Biden standing beside him in the Roosevelt Room, the president, who suffered the loss of two of his own children — but not to gun violence — spoke in visceral terms of the grief of the victims’ loved ones and the pain that will endure for the students who survived.
“Losing a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped out,” Biden said. “There is a hollow in your chest. You feel like you’re being sucked in and never able to get out.
Over the years, Biden has been intimately involved in the gun control movement’s most notable successes, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban, and its most troubling disappointments, including the failure of passing new legislation after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. , Connecticut.
In the White House, Biden has tried to reduce gun violence through executive orders. He faces few new options now, but executive action might be the best the president can do, given Washington’s sharp divisions over gun control legislation. Lawmakers have reignited long-running negotiations over expanding background check requirements and encouraging ‘red flag’ laws meant to keep guns out of reach for people with mental health issues, but the talks are facing an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.
Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP video reporter Robert Bumsted in Uvalde, Texas, contributed to this report.
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