“Jill and I will be traveling to Texas in the coming days to meet with the families and let them know we have a sense of their pain, and hopefully bring some little comfort to a community in shock, in grief and in trauma,” Biden said at the White House during a signing event for an executive order on police reform.
“As a nation, I think we all must be for them. Everyone,” he added. “And we must ask: When in God’s name will we do what needs to be done to, if not completely stop, fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country?”
Echoing remarks he made Tuesday night in a national address, Biden said he was “sick and tired of what’s going on.”
He said “common sense” gun reform wouldn’t “prevent every tragedy,” but would still “have significant impact, and have no negative impact on the Second Amendment.”
“The Second Amendment is not absolute,” Biden said. “When it was passed you couldn’t own a cannon. You couldn’t own certain kinds of weapons. There’s just always been limitations.”
“The idea an 18-year-old can buy weapons of war designed and marketed to kill is, I think, just wrong. It just violates common sense,” the President continued.
“Where’s the backbone?” he asked. “Where’s the courage to stand up to a very powerful lobby?”
The President said on Wednesday that “one modest step” Congress could take immediately would be to confirm his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach, who vowed earlier Wednesday at a Senate confirmation hearing that he would not be influenced by political considerations if he secures the job.
“The Senate should confirm him without delay, without excuse,” Biden said. “Send the nomination to my desk. It’s time for action.”
With 21 dead and 17 others injured, the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in almost a decade, shaking a nation still reeling from a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, just 10 days ago.
Details about how the shooting unfolded have continued to be released by law enforcement officials on Wednesday as more is learned about the crime. The suspect shot his grandmother, drove to the nearby school, forced his way inside adjoining classrooms and opened fire at a group of kids and faculty. Officers eventually forced their way into the barricaded room and a Border Patrol officer fatally shot him.
Tuesday’s massacre is the second-deadliest school shooting since 2012, when 26 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and it was at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school in 2022, according to a CNN tally.
Biden, in his national address Tuesday night, recalled the Sandy Hook shooting, which happened when he was vice president.
“I had hoped when I became President I would not have to do this again,” he said. “How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened – see their friends die as if they’re in a battlefield, for God’s sake? They’ll live with it the rest of their lives.”
Biden signs executive order on police reform
Biden’s comments on Wednesday took place during a ceremony for the signing of an executive order aimed at federal policing reforms.
The order, signed on the second anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, is more limited than the sweeping legislation that has been blocked by Republican opposition in Congress.
Members of Floyd’s family, the families of other individuals killed by police, members of Congress, members of the law enforcement community and members of the Cabinet were also present.
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the families in the room at the ceremony, saying that though the order to address police reform will not take away their pain, the new action is “a long overdue, critical step forward.”
The order takes several actions that will be applied to federal officers, including efforts that ban chokeholds, expand the use of body-worn cameras and restrict no-knock warrants.
The order also mandates that the Justice Department create a new national database of police misconduct, which will be used by all federal law enforcement agencies and required for federal personnel screenings. The database will also be used to screen state and local officers who participate in federal joint task forces.
Biden’s order also brings back and enhances Obama-era limitations on the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, which had been rolled back by the Trump administration.
During his speech on Wednesday, Biden again promised to do “everything” in his power to pass police reform and again urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“George’s name is not just going to be a hashtag, your daddy’s name is going to be known for a long time. As a nation, we’re going to ensure his legacy and the legacy of so many others remembered today. It’s not about their death, but what we do in their memory, that matters. Purpose,” Biden said, addressing Floyd’s daughter, Gianna.
After signing the order, Biden invited Gianna to sit at the signing desk.
Harris, who had received the pen Biden used to sign the order moments earlier, then leaned over and gifted it to her.
The President then told the crowd: “You know what she told me when I saw her? … Seriously, she pulled me aside and said, ‘My daddy’s going to change the world.’”
This story has been updated with additional developments on Wednesday.
CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed to this report.