WASHINGTON – After ordering flags at half-staff Sunday to honor victims of the Allen Mall rampage, President Joe Biden accused Republicans of shrugging off an epidemic of gun violence and reiterated calls to ban handguns from assault and high-capacity magazines.
“Too many families have empty chairs at the table. Republican members of Congress cannot continue to address this epidemic with a shrug of the shoulders. Thoughts and prayers on Twitter aren’t enough,” Biden said.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott focused on mental health interventions as the best “long-term solution” to reducing mass shootings. At the White House, the president expressed frustration that weapons like those used on Saturday remain so accessible.
“Eight Americans — including children — were killed yesterday in the latest act of gun violence to ravage our nation,” Biden said in a statement. “An assailant in tactical gear armed with an AR-15-style assault weapon killed innocent people in a shopping mall, and not for the first time. Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar.
Last June, Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law following mass shootings the previous month at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
In Uvalde, 19 children and two adults were killed by a shooter who wrote “LOL” in the victims’ blood on a blackboard. In Austin, parents of victims lobbied to change Texas gun laws, which allow owners to carry firearms in public without a license or training, openly or covertly.
The GOP-led legislature rejected the gun control calls, instead focusing on mental health resources, school hardening and student discipline.
The law signed by Biden was the first major gun safety measure in Congress in nearly three decades.
It provided $13 billion for school and community mental health services and expanded background checks for gun buyers under 21 to allow access to juvenile records. It also allowed authorities to confiscate guns from domestic abusers and people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, was the GOP’s lead negotiator and one of 15 Senate Republicans who supported him.
Last month, after a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, Cornyn rejected calls for broader background checks or other gun laws, saying Congress had gone as far as Republicans were willing to go.
Three 9-year-old children and three adults died in that attack, which Biden called “sick” and “excruciating.”
Subsequently, he reiterated his call for tougher gun laws, as he did on Sunday, though he also said “we’ve made some progress” since last June’s new law.
“States are banning assault weapons, expanding red flag laws and more, but it’s not enough. We need more, faster action to save lives,” he said. “Once again I ask Congress to send me a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Implement universal background checks. a safe deposit. End of immunity for gun manufacturers. I will sign it immediately. We need nothing less to keep our streets safe.”
On Sunday morning, the president ordered flags to be flown at half-mast through Thursday “out of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on May 6, 2023 in Allen, Texas.”
He and first lady Jill Biden “are praying for their families and others seriously injured,” he said, “and we are grateful to the first responders who acted quickly and boldly to save lives.”
But “American communities have already experienced about 200 mass shootings this year,” Biden said. “More than 14,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives, credible estimates show. The leading cause of death for American children is gun violence.