On Sunday, President Joe Biden and Jill Biden mourned alongside the besieged hamlet of Uvalde, holding a special three-hour memorial service with the bereaved relatives of the 19 pupils and faculty members killed by a shooter. As he left a prayer meeting, chanting of “do something” greeted Biden, who swore, “We will.”
Biden paid a visit to a monument of 21 white crosses — one for each of those slain — at Robb Elementary School, where first lady Jill Biden donated a bunch of white flowers to those being in front of the school logo. The pair then walked down the row, caressing the children’s photos as they passed by individual shrines made in honor of each kid.
Following his visit to the memorial, Biden visited Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where some victims’ relatives are members, and one of them was there.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller addressed the crowd personally, attempting to alleviate the anxieties of the children, some of whom appeared to be around the same young as the fatalities.
“You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve seen your parents’ and friends’ tears,” he continued, urging them not to be afraid of life. “You are the best reminders for us that the lives of the children matter.”
A throng of approximately 100 people began yelling “do something” as Biden left the church to meet discreetly with relatives. As he got into his car, Biden said, “We will.” Throughout his seven-hour stay in Uvalde, it was his only public statement.
Biden later tweeted that he mourns, pleads, and supports Uvalde residents. He added, “And we are resolved to converting this pain into motion.”
Biden’s journey to Uvalde was his second in as many weeks to console a grieving community following a horrible massacre. On May 17, he came to Buffalo, New York, to meet with victims’ families and criticize white supremacy in the aftermath of a shooter who used the racist “replacement theory” to murder ten Black people at a supermarket.
“Evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, far too many places where innocents have died,” Biden said Saturday in a commencement address at the University of Delaware. “We have to stand stronger. We must stand stronger. We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.”
Biden also met with first responders before the trip back to his home in Delaware. It was not clear if the group included officers who were involved in the immediate response to the shooting.
Biden’s visit coincided with increased criticism of the police reaction. Officials disclosed on Friday that students and instructors pleaded with 911 operators for assistance many times as a police commander directed over a dozen policemen to wait in a corridor. Officials claimed the commander thought the suspect was confined inside an adjacent classroom and that the incident was over.
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The news prompted even more anguish and raised further questions about whether lives were lost as a result of authorities’ failure to act quickly enough to stop the gunman, who was eventually killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
The Justice Department announced on Sunday that it will conduct a review of law enforcement’s conduct and publish its conclusions.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Ronnie Garza, a Uvalde County commissioner, said, “It’s easy to point the finger right now,” before adding, “Our community needs to focus on healing right now.”
Mckinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Eliahana Torres was killed on Tuesday, said she appreciated Biden’s choice to join the Uvalde community in mourning.
“It’s not only grief,” she explained. “We want things to change. We want to see something done. It’s something that keeps happening over and over again. There is a mass shooting. It’s all over the news. People are in tears. Then it vanishes. Nobody gives a damn. Then it happens once more. “And once more.”
“If there was anything I would advise Joe Biden, it’s just to respect our community while he’s here,” she continued. “However, we require change.” Something needs to be done about it.”
The shooter lawfully bought 2 guns not long before the classroom attack, according to authorities: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He’d only recently turned 18, allowing him to buy guns under federal law.
“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden asked shortly after the shooting. Since when are we prepared to put up with this? “How come we keep allowing this to happen?”
Biden has been a key figure in both the gun control protest’s most famous victories, such as the 1994 assault rifle ban, which expired in 2004, and its most vexing setbacks, such as the failure to pass new legislation after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Biden has attempted to combat gun violence with executive actions as president. Given Washington’s deep disagreements on gun control measures, the president may have few new alternatives, but unilateral action may be the most he can do.
After a decade of mostly fruitless attempts, a bipartisan group of senators met over the weekend in Congress to see if they could negotiate even a small agreement on gun safety measures.
Sen. Chris Murphy, who is driving the campaign, said that encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep weapons away from those with mental health difficulties, as well as addressing school security and mental health resources, were on the agenda.
While there isn’t nearly enough Republican support in Congress for larger gun safety initiatives that are popular with the general public, such as a new assault rifle ban or mandatory background checks on gun transactions, Murphy, D-Conn., said these other ideas are “not inconsequential” on ABC’s “This Week.”
The committee will meet again next week under a 10-day deadline to reach an agreement.
“I have never seen more Republicans engaged in speaking about finding a road forward since Sandy Hook,” said Murphy, who was a congressman representing the Newtown area at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting. “And while I may wind up disappointed in the end, I am at the table with Republicans and Democrats in a more meaningful sense than I have ever been.”
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