WASHINGTON (KXAN) — President Joe Biden repeated his calls for new gun restrictions Wednesday afternoon while marking one year since the mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde elementary school.
Biden spoke alongside First Lady Jill Biden about the tragedy while 21 candles denoting each victim surrounded the couple. He called Wednesday a “tough day” for the victims’ families, saying it’s “important” yet “painful” to remember what they lost last year.
“To the families of the children and the educators who we know one year later, it’s still so raw for you,” Biden said. “A year of missed birthdays and holidays, school plays, soccer games, just that smile. A year of everyday joys gone forever.”
He noted Congress passed its first federal gun safety legislation in decades after the Uvalde shooting. The Safer Communities Act expands background checks in certain cases, closed the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent domestic abusers from getting or keeping firearms and clarifies the created penalties for straw purchases and those who don’t follow federal firearm licensing requirements. Additionally, the bipartisan package doled out grants to bolster mental health resources and to better secure schools.
However, on Wednesday, he said more needed to be done, including a national ban on AR-15 style rifles and high capacity magazines as well as universal background checks, red flag laws and safe storage requirements.
“We can’t end this epidemic until Congress passes some common sense gun safety laws to keep weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people — until states do the same thing,” Biden said. “How many more parents will live their worst nightmare before we stand up to the gun lobby?”
Efforts to change gun laws in the Texas legislature made little progress this session despite pleas from the Uvalde families who lost loved ones in the school shooting.
The Texas governor ordered flags to fly at half-staff Wednesday in recognition of a year passing since the tragedy. In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott explained why he also asked people to pause for a moment of silence for the victims.
“As we lower Texas flags today in remembrance, I ask all Texans to join Cecilia and me in a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives, the families who lost a loved one, the survivors who are forever changed, and the entire Uvalde community as they continue to heal,” Abbott said. “May we also remember that Texans, uniting in our darkest days, will rise above to forge a brighter path forward.”
In the year since the shooting, questions remain for the victims’ families and survivors over how it took 376 responding law enforcement officers 77 minutes to breach the classroom and take down the gunman. The majority of records related to the response that day are sealed as part of an ongoing investigation. Parts of that day, however, have come to the light through internal information leaks to the media — slowly revealing how misinformation and an uncoordinated command system proved to be catastrophic, significantly delaying action and medical care to the victims and survivors inside.
Uvalde’s mayor joined other city and school leaders at a news conference Monday, where he expressed frustration about the lack of accountability for the failed response to the shooting.
“This is my opinion: it’s been a bunch of BS that we’ve been a year, and we’re still waiting for answers that we are. But we’re moving forward to get those answers now,” Mayor Don McLaughlin said. “As soon as we have our report, we should have been done, but it’s not. Then I can promise you whatever action we need to take, we will take.”
During that same news conference, the Uvalde school district’s interim superintendent revealed plans to move forward with demolishing the elementary school where 21 people died last year are paused right now due to a court order. He told reporters that he cannot share a timeline on when crews can tear down Robb Elementary School because of “litigation.” He clarified that this is related to a court order filed by District Attorney Christina Mitchell, but he said he hopes this will be resolved by this summer.