Bidens arrive in Texas to pay respects after school shooting

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President Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday to pay their respects to the 21 people killed in the tragic mass shooting at an elementary school there last week.

The Bidens, who were met by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and his wife, Cecilia Abbott, visited a memorial constructed outside Robb Elementary School, the site of the deadly shooting Tuesday that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

The memorial was decorated with flowers and crosses bearing the names of the victims murdered in the shooting. The Bidens placed a bouquet of flowers at the memorial and held hands with the elementary school’s superintendent, Hal Harrell, and principal, Mandy Gutierrez.

The president and first lady are spending all afternoon in Uvalde, meeting with families of victims and survivors of the mass shooting and, later, first responders. Those meetings are private and closed to the press, and the president was not scheduled to deliver formal remarks as he does on most official trips.

The Bidens, who are Catholic, are also attending mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde.

President Biden made the decision shortly after Tuesday’s shooting to travel to Uvalde to offer comfort to the families and the community affected by the tragedy.

It was his second visit to a grief-stricken community following a mass shooting in less than two weeks; he recently visited Buffalo, N.Y., to meet with families of 10 victims killed in the mass shooting at Tops grocery store that police are investigating as a racially motivated hate crime.

As President Biden landed in Uvalde, outrage continued to mount over the police response after an 18-year-old gunman walked into the school and opened fire on adjoining classrooms.

While Greg Abbott praised the law enforcement response in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting, new details have emerged contradicting officials’ initial account.

Videos emerged showing angry parents pleading with officers to enter the building and stop the gunman, and police said the shooter was not confronted before he entered the school despite earlier indications otherwise.

On Friday, a Texas official acknowledged that officers did not treat the situation as an “active shooter” because they believed no more children were at risk after initial shots were fired in a classroom, a belief directly contradicted by 911 calls police said they received.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw acknowledged during a news conference it was the “wrong decision.” The governor told reporters hours later that he was “livid” at having been “misled” by police.

The Justice Department announced Sunday, shortly after the Bidens arrived in Texas, that it would investigate the police response to the shooting at the request of Uvalde’s mayor.

The events have also renewed a contentious national debate about gun control, with President Biden and other Democrats pressing for action on the federal level on measures such as expanding background checks and banning assault-style weapons.

Past such efforts have been futile, given Republicans’ opposition to gun restrictions, and it’s unclear whether the Uvalde school shooting will yield different results. Greg Abbott and other Republican lawmakers have dismissed the idea of enacting stricter gun laws following the Uvalde shooting.

As the Bidens exited the church service in Uvalde Sunday afternoon, a spectator yelled, “Do something!”

“We will,” the president replied.

President Biden briefly reflected on the recent shootings during a commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, on Saturday, telling the graduates, “We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.”

“We can finally do what we have to do to protect the lives of the people and of our children,” he said. “So I call on all Americans this hour to join hands and make your voices heard and work together to make this nation what it can and should be.”

Updated at 2:55 p.m.

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