President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived Sunday in Uvalde, Texas, a town filled with grief and anger, to pay their respects to 19 students and two teachers killed during a mass shooting at the elementary school of the village.
The visit was Biden’s second trip this week to share grief with a community. On May 17, she was in Buffalo, New York, to meet with the families of the victims and condemn white supremacy after a “replacement theory” shooter killed ten African-Americans in a supermarket.
Biden stopped at 21 white crosses, one for each of those killed. His wife Jill put a bouquet of white flowers in front of the school sign.
The shootings in Texas and New York have highlighted the nation’s entrenched divisions and failure to forge consensus on actions to reduce gun violence.
“Evil reached that elementary school classroom in Texas, that grocery store in New York, too many places where innocents have died,” Biden said Saturday in a commencement address at the University of Delaware. “We have to be stronger. We must be stronger. We can’t ban tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.”
Biden arrived at Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Near the church, a teacher carried a sign: “Mr. President, thank you for coming. I’m a teacher”.
“The president has a good understanding of what is happening now, here, and we are very grateful for his visit,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller said. Biden then met privately with family members at a community center and with first responders at the airport.
Mckinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Eliahana Torres was killed Tuesday, said she respected Biden’s decision to share these difficult times with the people of Uvalde. “But it’s more than mourning,” she said. “We want a change. We want action. It’s still something that happens over and over and over again. A mass shooting occurs. It’s in the news. People cry. And then it happens again. We need to do something about it.”
Biden’s visit comes amid growing scrutiny of the police response to the shooting. Authorities revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly pleaded with 911 operators to help them when a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway.
Authorities said the commander believed the suspect was barricaded inside an adjoining classroom and there was no longer an active attack.
The Justice Department announced Sunday that it will review the law enforcement response and make its findings public.
Authorities have claimed that the shooter legally purchased two AR-15s shortly before the attack on the school. He had just turned 18, which allowed him to purchase the weapons under the law.
After the shooting, Biden made an impassioned plea for additional gun control legislation, asking, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?
Over the years, Biden has been intimately involved in the gun control movement, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, and its most troubling disappointments, including the failure to pass new legislation. after the 2012 massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary.