President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in the small Texas city of Uvalde on Sunday morning to visit with the families of victims and survivors of last week’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
An 18-year-old gunman with an AR-style rifle fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at the school Tuesday. Several others were wounded and remain hospitalized.
After landing in San Antonio, about 80 miles to the east, the Bidens traveled to Uvalde on Marine One to visit a memorial and attend Mass at a Catholic church before gathering with the families.
Arriving in a motorcade at Robb Elementary, the Bidens walked to the memorial with a bouquet of flowers. The memorial includes white crosses bearing the names of each victim.
The Bidens held hands with school officials. At one point, the president wiped away a tear.
A crowd was gathered near the school and cheered as the Bidens walked to the memorial.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also came to the school. Upon his arrival, a man in the crowd shouted: ”We need help!”
The president’s trip follows comments he made to the nation Tuesday night, in which he demanded action on gun control measures and blamed lawmakers for failing to pass even “common-sense gun laws.”
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden said.
Less than two weeks prior, Biden traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., to grieve with the families of victims of a May 14 mass shooting at a grocery store that left 10 people dead.
It was unclear who else Biden might confer with in Uvalde, but local officials and religious leaders are expected to be among them.
Rev. Henry Becerra of City Church — based in Los Angeles and San Antonio — said Saturday that he was flying from L.A. to Texas to attend Biden’s meeting with victims’ families, school staff and local leaders.
Becerra, who spent much of the past week praying with victims’ families in Uvalde, said he was drafting questions for the president — hoping to ask something that might help lead to lasting change.
“This is a cycle where we have mass shootings, it goes to social media, it goes to prayers and thoughts, then it goes back to normal. What will be the question that will really be that catalyst for change and transformation that we really need at this moment — that not only will Uvalde need, but that America needs?” Becerra said. “The most vulnerable have been targeted in the last few weeks: a grocery store, a church and a school.”
Becerra said his thoughts keep circling back to one question that has been on the minds of many in Uvalde as details have emerged about the shooting: Why did it take authorities so long to confront the gunman in the school?
State law enforcement officials have said children inside the school frantically called 911, begging police to save them, as a tactical decision by a commander kept 19 officers from confronting the gunman.
“Of course it wasn’t the right decision,” Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said. “It was the wrong decision. Period.”
Becerra said the reason for the decision remains “an unsolved mystery right now,” one that people need to have explained.
“There’s just a lot of questions that are not answered,” he said.
Becerra said he also expected people to ask Biden what was missed during the events, what has been learned and “what can we improve?”
“This mass shooting is not the end,” Becerra said. “More are coming. The way we are so unprepared is just … We need to be prepared. We need to be ready.”
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