Biden responds to protesters pressing him to ‘do something’ on Uvalde school visit: ‘We will’

Over the weekend, bipartisan group of senators in Congress discussed ways to reach compromise on gun safety legislation

Bidens visit Uvalde memorial and lay flowers at scene of school shooting massacre

Joe Biden faced calls from protesters to “do something” as he visited the Uvalde community on Sunday to grieve with families left anguished and shattered by last week’s gun violence.

The US president arrived at Robb Elementary School along with first lady Jill Biden and visited an expansive memorial of 21 white crosses for the 19 students and two teachers killed in the mass shooting.

Ms Biden laid a bouquet of white flowers, while the couple stood by each altar for some time as the first lady touched the children’s life-size photos along the long row. The president was also seen wiping away a tear at one point.

After visiting the memorial, Mr Biden attended Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where family members of the shooting victims were already assembled.

But as the Bidens departed the church, waving at the crowd of some 100 people, chants of “do something” rang in the air.

Mr Biden replied “we will” as he got into his car.

During the visit, the president tweeted that he grieves, prays and stands with the people of Uvalde. “And we are committed to turning this pain into action,” he said.

This was Mr Biden’s second visit in two weeks to console a community that was shaken by mass shootings. He visited Buffalo, New York, on 17 May to meet the families of victims of a targeted racial attack and condemned white supremacy.

The latest shootings have fuelled anxiety among many Americans already frustrated with the government’s inability to forge consensus on actions to reduce gun violence.

US president Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on 29 May

The president’s visit came amid criticism and growing calls for scrutiny of police’s alleged delayed response in taking action during the hour of violence at the school in Uvalde.

Witnesses revealed that students repeatedly begged 911 operators for help and parents outside the school urged police officers to charge into Robb Elementary as the carnage unfolded. But officials said the commander believed the suspect was barricaded inside an adjoining classroom and that there was no threat from an active attack.

The Justice Department announced on Sunday that it will review the law enforcement response and make its findings public.

“It’s easy to point fingers right now,” said Ronnie Garza, a Uvalde County commissioner, on CBS’ Face the Nation, before adding: “Our community needs to focus on healing right now.”

Texas governor Greg Abbott, who went to the school to meet Mr Biden, was booed and heckled by the angry crowd.

The Republican has previously said he expects new laws following the elementary school shooting, but when he was pressed for details, Mr Abbott’s response was inclined towards focus on mental health rather than gun reforms.

Mr Biden, who has tried to address gun violence through executive orders, has stopped short of demanding Congress pass any specific bill, given Washington’s sharp divisions on gun control legislation.

Over the weekend, a bipartisan group of senators in Congress discussed ways they could reach even a modest compromise on gun safety legislation after a decade of mostly failed efforts.

But the efforts discussed to control gun violence were encouraging state “red flags” laws to keep guns away from those with mental health issues and addressing school security and mental health resources were on the table, said Senator Chris Murphy, who is leading the efforts.

“There are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have ever seen since Sandy Hook,” said Mr Murphy.

“And while, in the end, I may end up being heartbroken, I am at the table in a more significant way right now with Republicans and Democrats than ever before.”

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