President Joe Biden on Wednesday marked one year since the massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas, by again calling on lawmakers to pass long-awaited gun safety measures.
On May 24, 2022, a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. The incident remains Texas’ deadliest school shooting of all time, and reignited nationwide anger over gun violence and lax firearm regulations.
The president delivered a speech on the somber anniversary as first lady Jill Biden looked on, with the two surrounded by 21 white candles bearing the names of the victims.
“Standing there in Uvalde, Jill and I couldn’t help but think that too many schools, too many everyday places, have become killing fields in communities all across every part of America,” Biden said, recalling his visit to the border town a year earlier. “In each place, we hear the same message: ‘Do something. For God’s sake, please do something.’”
Law enforcement came under severe criticism for its response to the shooting. A report by Texas lawmakers revealed that nearly 400 heavily armed officers from federal, state and local agencies were on the scene, but that they waited more than an hour before confronting and killing the gunman. Officers also prevented parents who gathered by the school from retrieving their children inside, and at times got physical with them for expressing anger at authorities’ inaction.
Currently, a state-level criminal probe into the hesitant police response is still ongoing, and Uvalde authorities continue to withhold public records related to the shooting. Some Uvalde families have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers and law enforcement.
“It’s time to act. It’s time to make our voices heard — not as Democrats or as Republicans, but as friends, as neighbors, as parents, and as fellow Americans,” Biden said. “Because today, guns remain the number-one killer — the number-one killer — of children in America.”
A month after the tragedy, Biden had signed the country’s most sweeping gun safety bill in decades, which included stricter background checks.
But the president this week renewed his calls for lawmakers to pass legislation that permanently bans AR-style firearms and high-capacity magazines, establishes universal background checks and a national “red flag” law, requires safe storage of firearms, and ends gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.
“How many more parents will live their worst nightmare before we stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden said.
The president and supporters of gun safety reforms — including Uvalde parents — have tried multiple times to advance such proposals, only for conservative legislators to block them. With the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate each having a slim political majority in Washington, it’s unlikely that the U.S. Congress will pass what Biden is calling for.
In Texas’ Republican-controlled state Legislature, lawmakers in the past year have rejected almost every proposal to improve gun safety. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has also shut down talks of stricter gun laws — the same response he had after several other mass shootings in his state.
“Since Uvalde, our country has experienced a staggering 650 mass shootings,” the president said. “We can’t end this epidemic until Congress pass some commonsense gun safety laws and keep weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people, [and] until states do the same thing.”
He added: “I know for a long time it’s been hard to make progress. But there will come a point where our voices are so loud, our determination so clear, that we can no longer be stopped. We will act.”