“Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? In the name of God, where is our backbone? he said during a seven-minute speech from the Roosevelt Room of the White House after news broke of the massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas. “It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
Biden made the remarks less than two hours after returning from Asia and just seven days after he last spoke about a mass shooting that shocked America. It was the second time in 10 days that an 18-year-old in a body armor carried a gun into a building full of unsuspecting people, interrupting the daily lives of ordinary Americans with terror, chaos and bloodshed.
For some Democrats and activists, it was a moment of swearing-filled frustration, helplessness turning to rage. It was a moment of demanding change, of attacking Republicans who brag about their love of guns, of pointing the finger at children they say Congress is failing.
For Biden, and for the nation as a whole, the Uvalde massacre was a painful echo of the 2012 shooting in Newton, Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in late 2019. a decade filled with mass shootings.
From Sandy Hook to Uvalde: 10 years of unsuccessful gun control efforts
“As a nation, we must ask ourselves: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Biden asked, his voice rising. “When, in the name of God, do we do what we all know we must do? He added: “I’m fed up and fed up. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.
The mass shootings have touched nearly every facet of American life, from country music concerts to suburban movie theaters, from churches and schools to local Walmarts and neighborhood grocery stores.
Several Republicans said Tuesday they wanted to wait for more information about the shooting before discussing possible action. But many Democrats have stepped up their rhetoric, bemoaning the young age of the victims and trying to break free from the usual responses.
“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on all fours and beg my colleagues: find a way forward here,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who once staged a filibuster of 15 hours. in the Senate to push for tougher gun laws, said during a Senate speech shortly after learning of the shooting. “Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”
Vice President Harris deviated from her planned remarks at a gala dinner for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. “I would normally say at a time like this – we would all say, naturally, our hearts are breaking. But our hearts keep breaking,” she said. “And yet it keeps happening.”
“Enough is enough. Enough is enough,” Harris added. “As a nation, we must have the courage to act.”
Biden learned of the shooting while flying home from a five-day trip to Seoul and Tokyo. He quickly signed a proclamation to fly the federal flags at half mast. He spoke to Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) while flying on Air Force One, and his staff were quick to deliver a rare primetime address.
Many lawmakers from both parties expressed horror and sadness immediately after the shooting.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said on Twitter that he was “completely ill and heartbroken,” that he was “rising in prayer” for the community, and that there had been “too many of these shootings. Cruz, along with former President Donald Trump and Abbott, are scheduled to speak Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston, about 275 miles from Uvalde.
Cruz’s critics responded angrily to him on Twitter, including Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), who wrote“Just to be clear, fuck you @tedcruz you fucking baby killer.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) summed up the shock and anger Democrats felt toward their Republican colleagues, noting that legislation passed in the House last year was languishing in the Senate.
“How many times will Senate Republicans still express their outrage at horrific shootings like today’s in Uvalde, Texas, and then block meaningful, bipartisan background check legislation, backed by nine Americans on ten and the most responsible gun owners?” he said in a statement. “How many more times?”
House Democrats passed two bills in March 2021. One would have eliminated a provision that allows the sale of firearms if a background check cannot be completed after three days. Charleston loophole legislation, named after the 2015 massacre in South Carolina, would have extended the review period to 20 days.
A separate bill would have required background checks to close the ‘gun show loophole’, which allows buyers to waive a review if they buy a gun at a gun show. or online.
Both bills passed with overwhelming Democratic support, but were never picked up in a 50-50 Senate, where 10 Republicans would be needed to send the legislation to the president’s desk.
More than 300,000 students have faced violence since Columbine
On Twitter, some resurrected a tweet from Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.), who represents Uvalde, in which the congressman bragged about voting against both bills and noted that he remains “a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose the takeover of arms by the far left.
Some lawmakers noted the country was still reeling from an attack on a black community in Buffalo just over a week ago that killed 10 people in a supermarket. After that racially motivated attack, Democrats privately acknowledged that any push for gun reform would likely be stalled in the Senate.
Instead, they have set their sights on accelerating a domestic terrorism bill that would expand the ability of federal agencies to track and analyze any domestic terrorist activity, including white supremacist groups. After making changes to appease liberals concerned that power could be abused, the House passed the legislation on Wednesday. The bill will be before the Senate on Thursday, but is unlikely to win the support of the 10 Republicans needed to top a filibuster.
As partisan recriminations have become routine after the mass shootings – as Democrats urge more gun control and Republicans accuse them of politicizing the tragedy – the murder of so many children on Tuesday seemed to raise the back and forth to a new level.
“I am sick and angry. I am furious that ANOTHER senseless school shooting has left at least 15 families without loved ones – including 14 precious, innocent children and a dedicated educator – just days after 10 people were murdered in Buffalo,” the rep said. CA Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) tweeted. “To my colleagues across the way: We’ve had enough of your simple thoughts and prayers. We need action NOW.
In his remarks, Biden said the shooting made him think about why the United States was particularly incapable of stopping mass shootings.
“What struck me during this 17-hour flight, what struck me was that these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why?” he said. “They have mental health issues. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But this kind of mass shootings never happen in other countries like in America.
Biden began his remarks with a shaky voice and red eyes.
“Another Texas Elementary School Massacre. Beautiful and innocent second, third and fourth year students. he said, before later concluding, “God bless the loss of innocent lives on this sad day. May the Lord be near to the brokenhearted and save the brokenhearted. Because they are going to need a lot.
It was just a week earlier that he was visiting grieving families in Buffalo, laying flowers on a makeshift memorial and consoling traumatized police officers.
The shooting also marked the latest diversion from Biden’s presidency, forcing him to wrestle with an issue he has long focused on but has suddenly had renewed resonance.
Responding to gun violence has, in some ways, been a guideline of Biden’s career. During the election campaign, he often bragged about his alleged success in taking on the National Rifle Association. He helped pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993 and an assault weapons ban in 1994.
But this latest bill had a 10-year “sunset” clause, expiring in 2004 after Congress failed to renew it. In the years since, Biden’s push for change has been repeatedly pushed back.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Biden took the lead in trying to mobilize a legislative response that was ultimately stalled.
In the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., shooting in 2018 — which left 14 students and three educators dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — Biden met with the families of the victims. And he developed friendships through bereavement with many victims of gun violence, offering his own advice on how to channel the loss into something that might seem productive.
Since entering the White House, he has announced four sets of executive actions related to gun control, including cracking down on “phantom guns” and promoting safe gun storage.
When he met with grieving families in Buffalo, Biden told them change would come, but perhaps not quickly. When speaking publicly, he cried as he described a man who stopped at the supermarket to buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son, who is now expected to celebrate birthdays without a father.
But when he left, just before boarding Air Force One, he admitted he had little executive action left to take. And although he said, “I’m not going to give up,” the odds of convincing Congress to act were “very difficult.”
He reiterated his call for Congress to pass gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons.
“Look, I’m not naive,” Biden said that day. “I know tragedy will return.”
What he didn’t know was that it would come back seven days later.
Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.