Biden: ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?’
President Biden on Tuesday implored Congress to “stand up to the gun lobby” and pass firearm restrictions after a gunman shot and killed at least 19 young children at a Texas elementary school.
Biden grieved for the victims in an address from the White House and expressed outrage at the failure of lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws he said would prevent school shootings.
“As a nation, we have to ask, when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden said in remarks from the Roosevelt Room. “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.”
“It’s time to turn this pain into action,” Biden continued. “We have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: It’s time to act.”
The president spoke about an hour after landing in Washington following a trip to Asia in an intensely somber appearance that was hastily scheduled after news of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, gripped the nation.
Very little was known about the 18-year-old gunman or his motivations as of Tuesday night. Police said the shooter was killed after opening fire at Robb Elementary School. Two adults are said to have been killed in the shooting.
Biden spoke to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) while aboard Air Force One after the president was briefed on the shooting while traveling home. He has also ordered that flags at the White House and other federal buildings be flown at half-staff.
Biden has consistently called for Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and expand background checks for gun sales, including following mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Atlanta.
But it’s unclear if and even doubtful that the latest mass shooting will spur concrete action in Congress, where Republicans have long been opposed to enacting gun restrictions. One tragic mass shooting after another has not broken the partisan stalemate around guns. Senate Democrats are unable to pass new gun restrictions strictly along partisan lines because of the legislative filibuster that requires at least 60 votes to advance most bills.
Biden offered a warning to those who “obstruct” renewed efforts to restrict access to firearms on Tuesday: “We need to let you know that we will not forget.”
Biden, who often shares his personal experiences with grief after losing two children, has spent much of his young presidency consoling the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic and other tragedies.
During his speech, Biden recalled the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that occurred during the Obama administration, when he served as vice president. He said there have been more than 900 incidents of gunfire since then.
“I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this again. Another massacre,” Biden said as he began his remarks. “An elementary school. Beautiful, innocent, second, third, fourth graders. And how many scores of innocent children who witnessed what happened saw their friends die as if they were on a battlefield, for God’s sake?”
Just a week ago, Biden was in Buffalo, N.Y., offering support to families impacted by a mass shooting that killed 10 people at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Vice President Harris briefly commented on the shooting earlier Tuesday during an unrelated event in Washington, calling for action to stop such violence.
“I would normally say in a moment like this — we would all say, naturally, that our hearts break. But our hearts keep getting broken,” Harris said. “Enough is enough. As a nation we have to have the courage to take action.”
On Capitol Hill, the events triggered anger among Democrats who demanded action. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a vocal advocate for stricter gun laws, compared the tragedy to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his home state.
“What are we doing? What are we doing?” Murphy said in emotional remarks on the Senate floor. “This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country and nowhere else. Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.”