“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he said, hoarsely and visibly emotional. “Where in God’s name is our backbone, to have the courage to deal with this and stand up to the [gun] lobbies?”
The president was returning from a multi-day trip to Asia when news broke that an young man had opened fire at Robb Elementary School in the small town of Uvalde, before he was shot dead. He has since been named as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.
At least 19 students and two adults were killed in the massacre, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history and the worst such violence in the US since 27 people were killed at a grade school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012.
“What struck me on that 17-hour flight, what struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world,” the president said during his remarks.”
He added: “Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. These kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America.”
Mr Biden called on Congress to pass “common sense” gun laws, including renewing the now-expired assault weapons ban he helped pass.
“The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong,” he said. “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for but to kill someone? They’re not running in the forest with Kevlar vests on for God’s sake. It’s just sick.”
Mr Biden’s calls for reform were echoed on the floor of Congress by Connecticut senator Chris Murphy.
“What are we doing?” Mr Murphy asked his Senate colleagues. “Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?”
Debate around whether further gun control measures is likely to continue in Texas and beyond.
The shooting took place just days before figures including Texas governor Greg Abbott, US senator Ted Cruz, and former president Donald Trump were expected to address a Houston meeting of the National Rifle Association, the powerful firearms association which has consistently lobbied against most national gun reforms.
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