President Biden began his national address with a deep breath, a heavy sigh.
In his remarks to the country following yet another mass shooting, the President seemed to be balancing two raw emotions: anger aimed at the gun lobby and the decades and decades of political inaction on gun control in this country, and genuine, sorrowful solidarity with the parents who lost their children in Texas today.
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” he said. “There’s a hallowness in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it. And you’re never going to be able to get out. Suffocating.” Then he went directly for the jugular.
“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 will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
Biden delivered remarks Tuesday night, just hours after an alleged gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas with a handgun and a rifle and opened fire, killing at least 18 children and two adults, and injuring others. The suspected shooter was killed by police.
It’s the second major mass shooting to rock the nation in 10 days. On May 14, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing 10.
It’s just one of at least 38 school shootings in the U.S. so far this year.
But this is the first school shooting we’ve seen in some time with a casualty rate this high — and one that includes primarily young, elementary school-aged children. Biden was vice president the last time a school shooter targeted elementary school students.
“It’s been 3,348 days, ten years since I stood up at … a grade school in Connecticut, where another gunman massacred 26 people including 20 first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, there have been over 900 incidents of gunfires reported on school grounds,” he said.
“When you include mass shootings in places like movie theaters, houses of worship, as we saw just 10 days ago at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York — I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.”
Biden then went straight to policy, raising the assault weapons ban he helped pass as a senator in the 1990s, arguing that it had been followed by a substantial dip in mass shootings in the country before the ban expired. He also condemned the gun industry for its dangerous marketing of assault weapons over the years, which has resulted in a spike in rifle and assault weapon-ownership in the country.
“What in god’s name do you need assault weapon for except to kill someone?” Biden wondered aloud. “It’s just sick. And the gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit. For god’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”
In urging those who “obstruct” efforts to pass common sense gun reform to step out of the way, the President, having just returned from Asia, fiercely declared that it is nothing but our politics that make mass shootings a uniquely American problem.
“Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in god’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with — to stand up to the lobby?”
Quoting scripture, Biden ended his brief remarks with the kind of soft, consolatory tenderness that perhaps only someone who has also lost a child can offer. Biden’s lost two.
“We have to do more. Our prayer tonight, with those parents, lying in bed and trying
to figure out will I be able to sleep again? What do I say to my other children? What happens tomorrow?” he said. “May god bless the loss of innocent life on this sad day and may the lord be near the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit. Because they’re going to need a lot of help, and a lot of our prayers. God love you.”