President Joe Biden on Sunday will undertake the grimly familiar task of comforting families after another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Texas, as a weary nation grapples with an endless spate of gun violence.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers last week. The White House said they would meet community and religious leaders along with family members of the young victims.
It’s a solemn task made more grueling by the serious failings of law enforcement who responded to Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School. And it comes without promise of major legislative action to prevent further carnage, though a bipartisan group of lawmakers have begun talks to identify areas of potential action.
“I’ll be heading to Uvalde, Texas, to speak to those families. As I speak, those parents are literally preparing to bury their children, in the United States of America, bury their children. There is too much violence, too much fear, too much grief,” Biden told graduates Saturday at the University of Delaware commencement ceremony.
For Biden, the trip represents a somber duty to join grieving families in their darkest moments. He often draws upon his own experience of losing two children — a young daughter to a car crash and his adult son to brain cancer — to console fellow parents.
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. 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. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same,” Biden said the night of the shooting, speaking from the Roosevelt Room shortly after returning from a two-country visit to Asia.
The Bidens’ visit to Texas comes 12 days after the couple traveled to Buffalo, New York, to visit the site of a racist massacre at a grocery store. That shooting left 10 people dead. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the city on Saturday to attend the funeral for 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, the oldest victim of the attack.
“This is a moment that requires all good people who are loving people to just say we will not stand for this. Enough is enough,” Harris said before laying a bouquet at a memorial outside the Tops Friendly Markets store where the shooting occurred May 14.
The dual visits by the President and vice president to communities afflicted by mass murder were a striking reminder of the scourge of gun violence consuming the nation. Biden, who has spent much of his career working to enact stricter gun laws, again called for action this week.
But he stopped short of demanding Congress pass any specific bill; the White House says it is up to Democratic leaders in the Senate to determine how to proceed on potential legislation. And he hasn’t named a gun violence task force beyond officials already inside the administration.
Biden and his aides also concede there is little more he can achieve through executive action that could prevent the types of massacres that now occur with gruesome frequency.
In Texas, Biden will also confront harrowing accounts of the shooting that even Texas law enforcement officials said amounted to a failing by police. The decision by responding officers not to enter the classroom where the shooting occurred — despite 911 calls from students pleading for help — leaves open the question of whether some lives could have been saved.
The White House has said it will not prejudge an investigation into the actions of police. But the timeline disclosures, made Friday during a harrowing news conference, only add to the sense of anguish Biden will confront during his visit.
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