Biden grieves with Texas town after latest US school shooting

The US president is scheduled to visit a memorial erected at the school, and meet with victims' families, survivors and first responders.

 US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

President Joe Biden landed in the Texas town of Uvalde on Sunday to comfort families ripped apart by the worst US school shooting in a decade as the public demands answers about why local police failed to act swiftly.

There was mounting anger over the decision by local law enforcement agencies in Uvalde to allow the shooter to remain in a classroom for nearly an hour while officers waited in the hallway and children inside the room made panicked 911 calls for help. 

Biden will meet with victims' families, survivors and first responders, attend a church service and visit a memorial erected at the Robb Elementary School where the gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

"He has to stay focused on the pain and grief of the families and the community and understand that all of this has been compounded by the fact that we still don't know exactly what happened. The more we learn, the more it seems the children were poorly served," said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist and a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The Democratic president also confronts the stark reality that he has been relatively powerless to stop American mass shootings or convince Republicans that stronger gun controls could stem the carnage.

 People react outside the Sgt Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students had been transported from Robb Elementary School after a shooting in Uvalde, Texas, US May 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MARCO BELLO) People react outside the Sgt Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students had been transported from Robb Elementary School after a shooting in Uvalde, Texas, US May 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MARCO BELLO)

The Texas visit will be his third presidential trip to a mass shooting site, including earlier this month when he visited Buffalo, New York, after a shooting that left 10 Black people at a supermarket dead.

"Too much violence, too much fear, too much grief," Biden told graduates in a commencement speech Saturday at the University of Delaware. "We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer. We can finally do what we have to do to protect the lives of the people and of our children.”

Calls for gun control

The Uvalde shooting has once again put gun control at the top of the nation's agenda, months ahead of the November midterm elections, with supporters of stronger gun laws arguing that the latest bloodshed represents a tipping point.

"We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer. We can finally do what we have to do to protect the lives of the people and of our children.”

US President Joe Biden

"The president has a real opportunity. The country is desperately asking for a leader to stop the slaughter from gun violence," said Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America.

He urged Biden to immediately enlist a senior official to tackle the country’s gun problem and crisscross the United States to pressure Congress to pass meaningful gun reform, saying Biden promised to be a deal maker and to tackle guns.

Vice President Kamala Harris called for a ban on assault-style weapons during a trip to Buffalo on Saturday, saying that in the wake of two back-to-back mass shootings such arms are "a weapon of war" with "no place in a civil society."

White House aides and close allies say Biden is unlikely to wade into specific policy proposals to avoid disrupting delicate gun control negotiations in the Senate. He is also unlikely to immediately take executive action to crack down on firearms, sending Republican lawmakers otherwise open to negotiating back to their corners, aides say.

Meanwhile, leading Republicans like US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former President Donald Trump rejected calls for new gun control measures and instead suggested investing in mental health care or tightening security at the nation's schools.

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott denied that newly enacted Texas gun laws, including a controversial measure removing licensing requirements for carrying a concealed weapon, had "any relevancy" to Tuesday's bloodshed. He suggested state lawmakers focus renewed attention on addressing mental illness.