WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden said “it’s time to act” on major gun reform legislation as he marked the one-year anniversary Wednesday of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.
“It’s time to make our voices heard, not as Democrats or as Republicans, but as friends, as neighbors, as parents, as fellow Americans,” Biden said in a sobering address. “And I’m being deadly earnest when I say that.”
Biden renewed his call for Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but he’s been unable to get support from Republicans in a divided Congress for these overhauls despite the stunning pace of mass shootings in the U.S.
“I know for a long time it’s been hard to make progress. But there will come a point where our voices are so loud, our determination so clear, it can longer be stopped. We will act.”
Biden spoke for about eight minutes alongside first lady Jill Biden in front of the White House’s grand staircase, paying tribute to victims of the deadliest of several mass shootings during Biden’s presidency.
An 18-year-old gunman entered the school with an AR-15-style rifle and targeted students and teachers in classrooms. Each of the students killed were between 9 and 11 years old. Law enforcement officers waited more than an hour to confront and kill the gunman, even as several children in Robb Elementary classrooms called 911 to beg for help.
The first couple recognized 21 candles lit to honor those killed in the shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School. Biden recalled how he and Jill Biden traveled to Uvalde after the shooting to grieve with families.
“Standing there in Uvalde, Jill and I couldn’t help but think that too many schools, too many every-day places have become killing fields in communities across every part of America. And in each place, we hear the same message: Do something. For God’s sake, please do something.”
“We did something afterwards, but not nearly enough,” Biden added, referring to bipartisan legislation that passed Congress last year to expand gun background checks on buyers 21 and younger and incentivize states to adopt “red flag” laws. “We still need to ban, in my view, AR-15 firearms and assault weapons once again.”
Directing his remarks to the families of victims, Biden said he knows it’s “still so raw” one year later. “A year of missed birthdays and holidays, school plays, soccer games, just that smile. A year of everyday joys is gone forever, the bend of his smile, the perfect pitch of her laugh.”
Biden told them their loved ones will “never be gone from your heart” and “as unbelievable as it sounds” there will come a time when they smile when they think about them instead of cry.
“That’s when you know you’re going to make it,” Biden said.
Contributing: Austin American-Statesman
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden honors Uvalde shooting victims one year later: ‘Time to act’