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President Joe Biden is delivering a primetime address Tuesday evening, hours after a gunman killed 18 children and three adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Earlier, he ordered that the U.S. flag be flown at half staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds.
The suspected shooter was fatally wounded in the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary School, located about 83 miles west of San Antonio, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said that the Texas Rangers, a division of state law enforcement, told him that 18 children and three adults were killed.
Biden spoke to Abbott and offered “any and all assistance he needs” to respond to the shooting, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a tweet.
The elementary school shooting evoked horrific memories of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It is the second mass shooting to rock the country in 10 days following an attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Elected officials sent an outpouring of sympathy for the victims of the shooting. Supporters of stricter gun safety measures expressed outrage that a killer used firearms in yet another school massacre.
Vice President Kamala Harris called for political action.
“I would normally say in a moment like this — we would all say naturally — that our hearts break. But our heats keep getting broken,” she said. “As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, urged his colleagues in a Senate floor speech to take meaningful action to address gun violence.
“Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate, why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in position of authority if your answer as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?” asked Murphy, who in 2012 represented the U.S. House district where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook.
“What are we doing? Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?” he added.
“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues,” Murphy said. “Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”
On his way off the Senate floor, Murphy scoffed at the idea, routinely raised by Republican lawmakers after mass shootings, that the problem was mental illness, not the widespread prevalence of firearms in America.
“We have mass shooting after mass shooting and, you know, spare me the bullshit about mental illness,” Murphy told reporters. “We don’t have any more mental illness than any other country in the world.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the shooting, a “cold-blooded massacre.”
“For too long, some in Congress have offered hollow words after these shootings while opposing all efforts to save lives,” Pelosi said in a statement. “It is time for all in Congress to heed the will of the American people and join in enacting the House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that reforming gun laws is not the solution to what he called “yet another act of evil and mass murder.”
“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it,” Cruz said. “You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. That doesn’t work. It’s not effective.”
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