WASHINGTON: Under pressure to act after the latest US mass shooting that left 21 people dead, President Joe Biden vowed Monday to push for stricter gun regulation, an uphill battle given the Democrats’ narrow congressional majority.
“I’ve been pretty motivated all along” to act on guns, Biden told reporters in Washington.
“I’m going to continue to push,” he said, adding, “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has been working through the Memorial Day weekend to pursue possible areas of compromise.
They reportedly were focusing on laws to raise the age for gun purchases or to allow police to remove guns from people deemed at risk — but not on an outright ban on high-powered rifles like the weapon used Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas or the one used 10 days earlier in Buffalo, New York.
In Uvalde, grieving mourners were holding their first wakes Monday for some of the 19 children and two teachers gunned down last week at an elementary school by a local 18-year-old man who was then killed by police.
The first funerals are set for Tuesday, with others scheduled through mid-June. The huge number of victims, many with horrific wounds, has left the town’s two funeral homes turning to embalmers and morticians from across Texas for help.
One anonymous donor has pledged $175,000 to help cover funeral costs, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.
At one of the funeral homes — just across the street from Robb Elementary School where the shooting occurred — friends, family and strangers attended a closed-casket visitation for 10-year-old shooting victim Amerie Jo Garza. Pictures of the young girl decorated the space.
Esther Rubio, who described the scene as “very somber,” came from nearby San Antonio with her husband.
“I don’t know what else to say, because there’s no words to describe (it),” she said.
The Uvalde massacre — the deadliest school attack since 20 children and six staff were killed in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 — came less than two weeks after 10 people died in the attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York by a young gunman targeting African Americans.
While mass shootings draw anguished attention and spur momentary demands for change, most US gun violence passes with scant notice.
The country’s Memorial Day weekend — Monday is a national holiday — has been marked by yet more graphic violence.
At least 126 gun deaths and 317 injuries were recorded nationwide from Saturday to Monday afternoon, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
Gun-control advocates hoped the shock over the Uvalde tragedy, coming even as people in Buffalo were burying victims of the attack there, might finally prompt politicians to act.
A few key lawmakers, including a Democratic senator involved in the weekend talks in Washington, have expressed guarded optimism that the group might make progress, even in the face of deep resistance from most Republicans and some rural-state Democrats.
“There are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have seen since Sandy Hook,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told TV interviewers Sunday, adding that bipartisan “serious negotiations” were underway.
Biden said Monday he is deliberately “not negotiating with any of the Republicans yet.”
But, he added, “I know what happened when we had rational action before” on gun regulation.
“It did significantly cut down mass murders,” he said.
Mourners in Uvalde — a mostly Latino town of 15,000 about an hour’s drive from the Mexican border — have echoed calls for change.
“At the end of the day, if this child cannot even sip a glass of wine because he’s too young, then guess what? He’s too young to purchase a firearm,” said Pamela Ellis, who traveled from Houston to pay her respects.