President Joe Biden condemned gun manufacturers and mourned ‘so many crushed spirits’ in the wake of a devastating mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 18 children on Tuesday.
‘Where in God’s name is our backbone?’ a visibly emotional Biden pleaded.
The president called on elected officials to ‘stand up to the gun lobby’ in an impassioned speech barely two hours after arriving back in the United States following his first trip to Asia while commander-in-chief.
‘I had hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this. Again. Another massacre,’ Biden said.
Speaking from the White House Roosevelt Room with First Lady Jill Biden clad in black by his side, the president said: ‘Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful innocent, second, third, fourth graders. And how many scores of little children who witnessed what happen – see their friends die as if they’re on a battlefield, for God’s sake?’
He took a moment to empathize with parents who would never see their young children again after Tuesday.
‘Parents will never be the same. To lose a child, it’s like having a piece of your soul ripped away,’ said the president, who lost his son Beau Biden to brain cancer in 2015.
‘There’s a hollowness in your chest you feel like you’re being sucked into it. And never going to be able to get out. Suffocating. And it’s never quite the same. It’s the feeling shared by the siblings and the grandparents and the family members and the community that’s left behind.’
He lamented there were ‘so many crush spirits’ left to mourn the more than dozen victims.
‘So tonight, I asked the nation to pray for them. Give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now.’
President Joe Biden gave a short but impassioned speech less than two hours after returning from a trip to Asia
Biden delivered the remarks in the White House Roosevelt Room with a silent and solemn First Lady Dr. Jill Biden by his side
His voice growing louder, Biden continued: ‘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 recalled the numerous mass shootings over the last decade, including visiting Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 26 people including 20 children while he was vice president. He also remarked on the this month’s mass shooting that killed 10 people 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. I spent my career as a senator and vice president working to pass common sense gun laws,’ he said.
‘We can’t and won’t prevent every tragedy, but we know they work and have positive impact. When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down, when the law expired mass shootings tripled.’
He said the ability for a teenage gunman, like Salvador Ramos, to be able to ‘walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong.
‘What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?’ Biden questioned.
He then accused gun makers of spending ‘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,’ the president said.
Biden pointed out that no other developed nation has the rate of gun violence the US experiences.
‘Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why?’ he pressed.
‘Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?’
He then called on supporters of tighter gun laws to mobilize in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting, while warning opponents of firearm reform: ‘For those who obstruct or delay or block the common sense gun laws, we need to let you know that we will not forget.’
‘Our prayer tonight is those parents lying in bed trying to figure out, will I be able to sleep again? What do I say to my other children? What happens tomorrow?’ Biden said.
‘May God bless the loss of innocent life on this sad day. And may the lord be near the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit because they’re going to need a lot of help, a lot of our prayers.’
Earlier, Vice President Kamala Harris condemned the mass shooting and called on elected officials to pass reforms to ensure it ‘never happens again.’
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the devastating shooting at a pre-planned event in Washington, DC
‘So while we don’t know all the details yet, we do know that there are parents who have lost children – families that have lost children – and their loved ones of course, and many others who may have been injured,’ the vice president said.
‘So, I would normally say in a moment like this, we would also say, naturally, that our hearts break. But our hearts keep getting broken. You know, I think so many – there’s so many elected leaders in this room, you know what I’m talking about. Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break. And our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families.’
She added, ‘And yet it keeps happening.’
Speaking at the annual summit for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, Harris called on those in the room specifically to examine their role in enacting change.
‘I think we all know and have said many times with each other, “Enough is enough.” Enough is enough. As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again.’
A woman cries as she leave the Uvalde Civic Center following a shooting earlier in the day at Robb Elementary School, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas
‘Please know that this is a room full of leaders who grieve with you, and we are praying for you, and we stand with you,’ Harris said to the people of Uvalde during her remarks
Adding that Biden was due to speak shortly, Harris continued: ‘But for now, I will just say to the people of Uvalde – Please know that this is a room full of leaders who grieve with you, and we are praying for you, and we stand with you.’
‘It is difficult at a time like this to think about much else. But I do look around this room, and I know who is here, and I know this is a room full of American leaders who knows and have the courage to take a stand.’
Biden ordered all flags at the White House and on federal grounds to fly at half-staff until sundown on May 28 in honor of the victims.
President Joe Biden spoke with Texas Governor Greg Abbott while aboard Air Force One, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield announced
The president looked somber as he returned to the White House, not answering reporters’ questions but reminding them he will speak in the evening
The president was briefed on the devastating mass shooting while aboard Air Force One, as he returned from his first trip to Asia as commander-in-chief.
While on the plane he spoke with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to ‘to offer any and all assistance he needs,’ communications director Kate Bedingfield revealed.
‘His prayers are with the families impacted by this awful event, and he will speak this evening when he arrives back at the White House,’ Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added.
She called the shooting a ‘horrific’ event.
Biden was visiting with leaders in South Korea and Japan to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to allies in the region and as a warning for China that it cannot operate unchecked.
But he’s returning to face the deadliest school shooting of his administration, and the worst since a teenage gunman killed 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February 2018.
Police walk near Robb Elementary School following the deadly shooting, Tuesday, May 24
At least 14 students are dead along with one teacher, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced
The 18-year-old shooter was also killed by police, officials said
At least 14 elementary school students and one teacher are dead after an 18-year-old opened fire in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas’ governor told the press on Tuesday afternoon.
Thirteen students are being treated at Uvalde Memorial Hospital as well as a 45-year-old male who suffered a ‘graze.’
Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his grandmother before going to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde; engaging border patrol agents nearby in a shootout; and then barricading himself inside the school, killing 14 students and a teacher
The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a student at Uvalde High School, had engaged in a shootout with Border Patrol officers and barricaded himself within the school facility. He died after a shootout with law enforcement, Abbott said.
‘Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde,’ the governor said in a statement.
‘Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School.’
Abbott, along with Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are slated to speak at a National Rifle Association event in Houston on Friday – just three days after the shooting.
A visibly distraught Senator Chris Murphy questioned on the Senate floor: ‘What are we doing? What are we doing?’
‘We have another Sandy Hook on our hands,’ the Connecticut Democrat said.
He said it was a ‘choice’ to let the numerous mass shootings continue unabated without passing any meaningful reform.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced that Biden was being kept updated on the shooting
‘This wasn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky,’ Murphy said. ‘Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.’
His fellow Democrat lawmaker, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, expressed his horror at the situation before laying blame with Republicans for their resistance to harsher gun control measures.
‘The shooting at Robb Elementary in Texas is a horror. My heart aches for the families devastated by this tragedy and the Uvalde community,’ Schiff said.
‘Children are dying, and we could do something about it. But the GOP won’t stand up to the gun lobby. Shameful doesn’t begin to cover it.’
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the elementary school, which has 600 students enrolled, catered to children in grades two, three and four.
Arredondo confirmed the shooter acted alone.
GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose district the shooting occurred in, said: ‘It is devastating when our innocent children become the victims of senseless violence. We are devastated.’
Gonzales was among the majority of Republican lawmakers who voted against expanding gun control measures on the federal level.
Robb elementary school, which has 600 students enrolled, is located in Uvalde – 60 miles east of the Mexican border and 80 miles west of San Antonio
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the ‘monstrous’ shooting before directing her ire at colleagues that have stood in the way of gun reform.
‘Words are inadequate to describe the agony and outrage at the cold-blooded massacre of little schoolchildren and a teacher at Robb Elementary School today,’ Pelosi said in a statement.
‘This monstrous shooting stole the futures of precious children, who will never experience the joys of graduating from school, chasing the career of their dreams, falling in love, even starting a family of their own.’
Referring to the multiple mass shootings in recent weeks, the Democrat continued: ‘Across the nation, Americans are filled with righteous fury in the wake of multiple incomprehensible mass shootings in the span of just days.’
‘This a crisis of existential proportions – for our children and for every American. For too long, some in Congress have offered hollow words after these shootings while opposing all efforts to save lives,’ she said.
‘It is time for all in Congress to heed the will of the American people and join in enacting the House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law.’