President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived midday Sunday in Uvalde, Texas, where they will bring personal words of comfort and the condolences of the nation to the grieving community, amid ongoing questions about the police response to the horrific elementary school shooting.
Biden said Saturday he plans to meet with each of the families who are preparing to bury loved ones after a teenage gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday. It was the deadliest school shooting in a decade.
The Bidens arrived around noon Eastern time and headed first to a memorial site at Robb Elementary School. They visited the school memorials of each of the children who died. The students’ photos were framed by white floral arches.
The Bidens moved from one lost life to another; Jill Biden touched each photo and could be seen wiping tears that slid from beneath her black sunglasses. The president also occasionally touched some of the photos and gestured at others.
The president and first lady then traveled to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde.
Earlier Sunday, the Rev. Eduardo Morales worked to comfort his parishioners — some of whom are families of the victims. Sacred Heart, a fixture of the community, has held masses and impromptu memorials since the shooting, and some of the victims’ funerals will be held at the church later this week.
Biden’s trip comes less than two weeks after he visited the scene of a racist massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., which left 10 victims dead.
“There’s too much violence. Too much fear. Too much grief,” Biden said when delivering the commencement address at the University of Delaware on Saturday. “Let’s be clear: Evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, to far too many places where innocents have died.”
REMEMBERING THEIR FACES:Uvalde school photographers’ pictures bring children and tragedy into full focus
The Bidens’ motorcade arrived at 11:40 a.m. CT at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where they will celebrate Mass. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller greeted them as they arrived.
Along the motorcade route, a man held up a sign that read: “Uvalde Strong” and a woman held up a blue and white flag with the word “BORDER” written across the top.
U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, would not vote yes on a national red flag law, he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Red flag laws are measures that allow police or family members to get a court order that temporarily confiscates firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
“I think there’s a lot of problems with red flag laws, especially at a national level,” Cranshaw said.
“When it comes to criminal law, that really should be democratically decided at the local and state level, but, even so, you have to look at these and wonder what the actual purpose is,” he added.
Cranshaw also said that he would not support a red flag law in Texas, adding that “what we are essentially trying to do with a red flag law is enforce the law before the law has been broken.”
The House is expected to vote on – and pass – a red flag bill in the coming weeks, leaving enactment up to the Senate. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have adopted such laws, and the federal legislation being discussed would provide money and incentives for other states to follow suit.
– Merdie Nzanga
The Bidens spent about 10 minutes talking with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and others before heading to Robb Elementary School, where they arrived at about 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden laid a bouquet of white roses at the makeshift memorial in front of the welcome sign outside of the school.
They paused in front, as if to share a moment of silence.
The president then began meeting with grieving school officials and parents, continuing one of his roles as consoler in chief.
– Candy Woodall
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-Texas, who called on Gov. Gregg Abbott to hold a special session at the Texas legislature after the Uvalde shooting, said Sunday that he sees more bipartisan support for stricter gun laws.
“I’ve had other colleagues, Republican colleagues, who at this point don’t want to be identified but have said we need to raise it to 21,” Gutierrez said about raising the age limit to purchase a gun on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Those are the kinds of things that make sense: red flag laws, waiting periods, making sure that we have a more significant robust background check,” he added.
He said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he’s not “blaming anyone for what happened,” but there needs to be “accountability as to what happened, who was there at what time, and which agencies take operational control when.”
Local police have faced criticism for staying outside the school and not confronting the gunman, even as parents begged them to enter the building and students inside called 911.
– Merdie Nzanga
An optimistic Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that a spirit of bipartisanship after the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, could break through a 30-year logjam in Congress and produce real movement on gun control.
“I’ve seen more Republican interest in coming to the table and talking this time than at any other moment since Sandy Hook,” he said.
Though Murphy said he knows Republicans won’t support everything he wants, like banning assault weapons, there’s middle ground on red flag laws, background checks, safe storage of guns and more.
“I think we can get something done, but we don’t have a lot of time,” he said.
Murphy said lawmakers are looking for “an old school compromise” to tighten gun laws so only law-abiding citizens can have them, while also investing in school security and mental health care.
“Parents in this country and kids are desperate for us to do something. They’re frightened, they’re anxious, and we will just add to their anxiety if nothing happens again,” he said.
– Candy Woodall
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to arrive in Uvalde at noon Eastern time.
Shortly after arriving, they will pay their respects to the children and teachers who died in Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School.
They will attend Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, followed by an afternoon of meeting with families of victims and survivors.
Around 6 p.m. Eastern time, the Bidens will meet with first responders, before starting their trip back to Delaware at 7 p.m.
– Katie Wadington
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said proponents of the Second Amendment are the ones who need to step up to reform gun laws, adding that raising the age for purchasing a gun to 21 is a good place to start.
We “have to be the ones putting forward reasonable solutions to gun violence,” the Illinois lawmaker said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“I think that raising the age of gun purchase to 21 is a no brainer,” he said, citing Florida, where the age to purchase a long gun was raised from 18 to 21 following the 2018 Parkland high school shooting in which 17 people died.
Kinzinger said, as a gun rights supporter and owner of an AR-15 rifle, “this kind of wild West” where people “carry a gun around because it looks cool” does not help defend gun rights.
Kinzinger floated the idea of creating a special license for owners of weapons like the AR-15, which the gunman in Uvalde used to kill 19 people.
“I think we need to have this real discussion,” he said.
– Katie Wadington
UVALDE, Texas — Nancy Sutton spreads out the photographs of the girl she knew so well: Ellie Garcia in first grade. Ellie in her basketball uniform. Ellie, smiling, a white bow in her hair.
Sutton, a professional school portrait photographer, has taken photos of every child killed at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday, along with the two teachers. In fact, she’s taken pictures of virtually every single student who has attended classes at Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District for the past 20 years.
Since Tuesday, the Suttons’ pictures of the dead have been published on newspaper front pages and on TV, and rocketed around the world via social media, providing a lens to the country’s worst mass shootings and the means by which the world could put faces to the names of the dead.
“Look at them, just babies,” she says of the photos before her. “Just babies. So young.”
– Trevor Hughes
Officials on Friday acknowledged a catastrophic failure by law enforcement to not immediately enter the classroom amid a gunman’s massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school this week.
Critical minutes ticked by as a school district police chief instructed over a dozen officers to wait in the hallway, believing there was no longer an active attack, even as terrified students pleaded for help in 911 calls and desperate parents begged to be allowed to save their children, according to officials and interviews with parents.
“Clearly there was kids in the room,” Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday. “Clearly, they were at risk. … There may be kids that are injured, that may have been shot but injured, and it’s important for life-saving purposes to immediately get there and render aid.”
Several calls to 911 were made by students inside the school, some of whom were locked in with the shooter while police were waiting. McCraw said at a press conference that the calls from inside the school began shortly after noon on Tuesday.
- 12:03 p.m.: The first call lasted a minute and 20 seconds, with a student whispering and saying she was in Room 112.
- 12:10 p.m.: The same student said multiple people were dead.
- 12:13 p.m.: A call came in from the same student.
- 12:16 p.m.: The same student called, saying eight to nine students were still alive.
- 12:19 p.m.: A call came in from a student who said they were in Room 111, who hung up after another student told the caller to do so.
- 12:21 p.m.: Three gunshots, believed to be fired at a classroom door, were heard during a 911 call.
- 12:36 p.m.: The first student called again for 21 seconds. The student “was told to stay on the line and be very quiet.” The caller told the operator, “he shot the door.”
- 12:43 and 12:47 p.m.: The first student called again and asked, “please send the police now.”
- 12:46 p.m.: The first student said she “could hear the police next door.”
- 12:50 p.m.: Audio of shots being fired were heard on a call.
- 12:51 p.m.: Audio of what sounded like officers moving students from the room was heard on a call.
McCraw said two students who made 911 calls survived the shooting.
While Biden is in Texas, the National Rifle Association continues its annual convention in Houston.
On Friday, the first day of the convention, N.R.A. head Wayne LaPierre rejected calls for new gun control measures.
Instead, LaPierre said, the “common sense” steps that should be taken include fixing the nation’s “broken mental health system” and fully funding police departments so every school can have a tailored safety program.
What is the National Rifle Association?:What we know about the powerful gun rights group
Attending the funeral Saturday of one of the 10 victims of the mass shooting in New York, Vice President Kamala Harris said the nation is experiencing an “epidemic of hate.”
There’s a through-line – what happened here in Buffalo, in Texas, in Atlanta, in Orlando; what happened at the synagogues,” she said. “And so this is a moment that requires all good people, all God-loving people, to stand up and say we will not stand for this.”
Contributing: Jeanine Santucci and Christine Fernando
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism