Joe Biden demands US ‘stand up’ to gun makers after Texas massacre
- Teenage shooter opened fire at junior school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and a teacher
- The Robb Elementary School attack was the deadliest since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012
“I hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this again,” Biden said at the White House, in sometimes halting, emotional remarks. “Another massacre in Uvalde, Texas. An junior school. Beautiful, innocent second, third and fourth graders.”
“As a nation,” he said, “we have to ask: When are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When are we going to do what we know in our gut needs to be done?”
Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School is the latest in a string of mass shootings that have rocked the country. Just 10 days ago, a gunman in Buffalo, New York, opened fire at a supermarket, killing 10 people in a racist attack.
The attack in Uvalde, which is about 130km west of San Antonio, is the most deadly US school shooting since a gunman killed 26 people, most of them first-graders, at the Sandy Hook junior school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
The shooter, an 18-year-old, was killed Tuesday by responding officers.
Biden was briefed on the Uvalde shooting aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington from a trip to South Korea and Japan. He ordered US flags to be flown at half-staff through May 28.
With gun control legislation stalled on Capitol Hill, the president has little to offer but yet another call to action and grief for the victims’ families. Biden didn’t call for specific measures but said that when the US had an assault-weapons ban in place, mass shootings decline, and then “tripled” after the law expired.
Democrats have repeatedly tried and failed to enact new gun-control measures – including universal background checks and an assault weapons ban – in the decade since Sandy Hook.
Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, who was elected to the Senate a month before the Sandy Hook shooting, delivered an angry, impassioned speech on the Senate floor imploring Congress to pass gun-control legislation.
“Our kids are living in fear every time they set foot in a classroom because they fear they will be next. What are we doing? Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate?” he said. “Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job and putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer, as the slaughter increases and our kids run for their lives, is we do nothing?”
Multiple proposals have been blocked by Republicans and a handful of centrist Democrats.
Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said he could conceive of no legislation that would prevent attacks like Uvalde.
“It would be very difficult,” he said. “You’re talking about millions of people out there, and there have got to be some screwballs that are just totally unpredictable. And there’s no way to identify who they are. So none that I can think of.”
Legislation expanding gun background checks to sales at gun shows and online cleared the Democrat-led House in March of last year on a 227-203 vote and a second bill cleared, 219-210, that would prevent gun sales from proceeding if a background check isn’t completed within three days as allowed under current law.
But in the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 Republican votes are needed to muscle past a filibuster, both measures stalled. Murphy and a few Republican senators engaged in talks over a bipartisan compromise requiring background checks on commercial gun sales. But they collapsed after Republican Senator John Cornyn exited the negotiations; Murphy said they weren’t bearing any fruit as lawmakers wrestled over the definition of “commercial” sales.