US President Joe Biden lamented on Tuesday afternoon the attack on the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a town of 16,000 in the state of Texas. According to Texas police, an 18-year-old shot dead 18 children and two adults, including a teacher at the school.
In giving his heartfelt condolences, Biden sent a clear message to the gun industry about the need for greater controls on the sale and use of firearms. “Gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit,” he said. “As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
In his address, Biden referred to previous massacres and noted that 10 years have passed since he was offering his condolences at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when a 20-year-old shooter killed 26 people.
“I had hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this again,” he said. “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. I spent my career as a senator and as vice president working to pass commonsense gun laws. We can’t and won’t prevent every tragedy. But we know they work and have a positive impact.”
As a senator for the state of Delaware in 1994, Biden supported a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity bullet cartridges that was signed into legislation by then-president Bill Clinton. The law stayed in effect until 2004 when it was repealed by George W. Bush.
“When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled,” said Biden. “The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong.”
The US president, who had just returned from an Asian summit, also pointed out that “mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world.”
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbies?”
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” said Biden, who has lost two children. “There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out.”
The shooting in Uvalde is the second to occur in the United States in just 10 days. Last Saturday, May 14, another 18-year-old killed 10 people in Buffalo in the state of New York. The shooter, Payton Gendron, was reportedly motivated by racist conspiracy theories.
The massacre in Uvalde took place in Robb Elementary School, where 90% of students are Latino and many come from low-income backgrounds. The murderer, who was shot by the police, had just turned 18.
Before Biden’s speech, US Vice resident Kamala Harris also addressed the public regarding Tuesday’s shooting. “Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break, and our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families. And yet, it keeps happening,” Harris said.
“Enough is enough,” added the vice president, who was attending the annual awards gala of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. “As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what [makes] for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again.”