Biden to visit Texas ‘in coming days’ to console families of shooting victims

REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona
People gather at Robb Elementary School, the scene of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., May 25, 2022.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde, Texas, in coming days to console families of the shooting victims killed at an elementary school.

Biden was speaking at the White House to roll out an executive order on police reform on the two-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the country and the world.

The president added remarks to his speech about the Uvalde shooting, which police say was carried out by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos. Americans were shocked by the death toll in the latest in a long string of mass shootings: 19 students and two teachers.

“Jill and I will be traveling to Texas in the coming days to meet with the families to let them know we have a sense, just a sense of their pain, and, hopefully, bring some little comfort to a community in shock and grief and trauma,” Biden said.

A little more than a week ago, he visited Buffalo, New York, to console the families of 10 people killed at a supermarket there – nearly all of them Black – by an avowed white supremacist. “I’m sick and tired of it,” Biden said on Wednesday.

The White House gave no immediate details on when the Bidens would visit Uvalde, a small town with a population of just under 16,000. Presidential visits require significant planning and logistics, all made more complicated in a town that size.

How far government can go in controlling access to firearms has been one of the most divisive issues in the United States. It pits those who say restricting the availability of guns will save lives against those who maintain that guns themselves are not the root cause of mass shootings and that the right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Biden urged the Senate to quickly confirm Steven Dettelbach, his nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, whose mission includes enforcing U.S. gun laws. Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney from Ohio, appeared at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was critical to have an experienced leader at the helm of the agency after seven years of vacancy, noting the key role ATF agents had played in investigating the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings.

“With daily gun violence plaguing too many of our communities, now is the time to provide ATF the leadership it needs to redouble its work to enforce our gun laws and make our communities safer,” she said in a statement.

Biden also renewed his criticism of the U.S. gun lobby, which fights attempts to impose stronger regulations on the gun industry.

“Where’s the backbone, where’s the courage to stand up to a very powerful lobby?” he said.