President Joe Biden traveled to Texas on Sunday to meet with the families of 19 children and two teachers shot dead in the United States’ latest school shooting, as Democrats played down the possibility of meaningful changes to gun laws.
Salvador Ramos, 18, entered Rob Elementary School in Uvald, Texas, on Tuesday and opened fire on children with an automatic rifle. He was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent about 90 minutes after the attack began.
The White House said the president and first lady Jill Biden will tour the school’s memorial site before attending mass at a nearby Catholic church and meeting with families of dead children and surviving students.
The massacre in Uvald, a Hispanic-majority town about 60 miles from the Mexican border, comes just over a week after a teenager in a predominantly black community in Buffalo, New York State’s second-largest city 10 people were shot dead at a grocery store.
Democrats in Congress have been trying for years to pass tougher gun control measures, but they have been staunchly opposed by Republicans, who have resisted even modest proposals such as stricter background checks before buying weapons.
Any legislative reform would need to pass a 60-vote voting threshold in the Senate, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to support gun control legislation to move forward.
On Sunday, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said he had “no illusions that we would do what needs to be done.”
“Until the redemptive power of love for all of our children is greater than the destructive power of love for guns, money and power, until our redemptive love for children turns into action,” Booker said, on NBC speak up.
“We have to be realistic about what we can achieve,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said it was “incredible” that the U.S. didn’t pass major legislation to address gun violence.
“Every time, after these mass shootings, Washington negotiates, and they never succeed,” Murphy said. “But this time there are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a way forward than I’ve seen since Sandy Hook.”
However, Murphy said there were bipartisan talks among lawmakers over the weekend on what they could agree on.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinsinger said on Sunday that he would support raising the minimum legal age to buy firearms from 18 to 21. Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas said he would also be willing to raise the minimum age to 21.
Vice President Kamala Harris called for a ban on assault weapons during a trip to Buffalo on Saturday.
Republicans expressed sympathy for the victims and their families, but showed little interest in new gun control measures in the wake of the Texas shooting.
Earlier this week, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas accused Democrats of trying to politicize the shooting, saying “in past experience, armed law enforcement on campus is one of the most effective tools for keeping children safe.”
Appearing at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday, former President Donald Trump dismissed calls for gun control and suggested strengthening schools.
The police’s response to Uwald’s gunman has sparked outrage after it was discovered that officers had waited before confronting him.
On Sunday, the U.S. Justice Department said it would review law enforcement’s response to the shooting at the request of Uwald Mayor Don McLaughlin.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said the review was designed to provide “an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day” and that the full report and its findings would be released.
At a news conference Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McGraw acknowledged that police reluctance to enter the classroom where the shooting took place was a mistake. “It certainly wasn’t the right decision,” McGraw said. “It was a bad decision, period. There’s no excuse for it.”
The reason for the delay, he said, was the belief that all the children in the classroom had been killed. McGraw said the perpetrators fired hundreds of bullets into two classrooms within four minutes.