As families and loved ones mourned the unimaginable loss of 19 children and two teachers who were shot to death last year in Uvalde, Texas, President Joe Biden said from the White House that too many schools and too many places have become “camps of death”.
The Texas town planned a private ceremony and candlelight vigil for the evening, and the Texas Congress paused for a minute’s silence at 11:30 a.m. local time, the time when where the shooter entered Robb Elementary School last year, sparking the nation’s deadliest school shooting in a decade.
Biden delivered a speech in front of 21 candles, one for each victim, accompanied by a white rose and satin ribbons in school colors containing each victim’s name and age. The children who died were between 9 and 11 years old. Before the president began his speech, he and first lady Jill Biden, who is a teacher, stopped to look at the names of the deceased.
“I know today is a very hard day for all families,” Biden said. “Remembering is important, but also painful.”
Biden spoke about his visit to Uvalde a few days after the massacre and how he stood looking at the 21 crosses outside the school with the names of the victims.
“We know that a year later, this is still very hard for you,” the president said. “They will miss birthdays and holidays, school plays, football games. Just that smile. A year of daily joy that is gone forever.
The deaths, along with another mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, led to a bipartisan law that was passed by a divided federal Congress a month after the incidents. It was the most significant gun safety law in decades.
The law tightened background checks for younger gun buyers, and is intended to keep firearms away from people charged with domestic violence and help states enact red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to remove guns to people considered dangerous.
“Too many schools, too many everyday places have become killing fields in communities across America. And in every place we hear the same message: Do something. For God’s sake, do something,” Biden said. “Later we have done something, but not enough.”
As of May 24, there have been at least 25 massacres in the United States so far in 2023, leaving at least 127 people dead, not including the assailants who died, according to a database operated by The Associated Press and USA Today in collaboration with Northeastern University.
And there have been at least 556 massacres since 2006 in the United States, according to the database, killing at least 2,892 people.
“It is time to act,” Biden said. “It is time to make our voices heard. Not as Democrats or Republicans, but as friends, as neighbors, as parents, as Americans.”