U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday that mass shootings in the United States “have gotten so bad” that even those opposed to restrictions on gun sales have become more “rational” in trying to curb the mayhem.
A day after his emotional visit to the Texas elementary school where a gunman last week killed 19 children and two teachers, Biden renewed his push to get Congress to enact new gun control legislation, possibly expanding background checks on more gun buyers— before sales are completed — and other measures.
Key Democratic senators, who have long pushed for tighter gun controls, say Republican lawmakers, who almost uniformly have opposed more restrictions as an infringement on personal freedom, are engaged in serious discussions about what new measures could win congressional approval, however modest the changes might be.
In the past, no matter how horrific the mass killing, members of Congress have lamented the carnage, and then done nothing to try to avert the next attack.
Now, Biden said, "Things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
Congress is unlikely to ban the sale of assault weapons, even though police say the gunman in Uvalde, Texas, carried out last week’s attack with such a weapon, an AR-15 he bought days after his 18th birthday earlier in May.
The U.S. banned the sale of such weapons from 1994 to 2004, but Congress then blocked the law’s renewal, although Biden would like to impose the ban again.
"The idea of these high-caliber weapons — there is simply no rational basis for it in terms of self-protection, hunting," Biden told reporters at the White House.
As Biden was getting in his limousine Sunday in Uvalde, he heard one of the nearby bystanders shout, “Do something!”
Biden paused, stood on the door frame of the vehicle, and vowed, “We will. We will.”
Biden’s seven-hour visit to the Texas city was his second this month to the scene of a mass shooting. He earlier gave condolences to the grieving relatives of 10 Black people who were killed by an allegedly racist teenage gunman at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
In Texas, Biden, accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, walked past the floral tributes to the victims outside Robb Elementary School, often pausing to touch the cardboard cutout pictures of each of the 21 victims and read their names.
While the Bidens paid their tributes, the U.S. Justice Department announced that at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, it would conduct a review of the police response to last Tuesday’s attack on the school, “to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events.”
In the Texas shooting, law enforcement officials are being sharply criticized for taking more than an hour to directly confront the gunman, Salvador Ramos, a high school dropout.
In the past few days, Texas law enforcement authorities have changed their accounts of exactly how the Robb Elementary massacre unfolded and their response to it.
Even as children trapped in the classroom with the shooter made urgent emergency calls, pleading with police to rescue them, the incident commander on the scene, the police chief for Uvalde schools, assessed — wrongly — that it was no longer an active shooter incident but rather that the assailant had barricaded himself in a classroom.
As a result, the incident commander, Pete Arredondo, did not immediately order police officers into the classroom to end the mayhem before more were killed.
Eventually, U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived at the school, burst into the classroom and killed Ramos.
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, said Friday that with the benefit of hindsight, "it was the wrong decision" to wait to confront the shooter.