President Biden called for changes to gun laws Tuesday and expressed his heartbreak in his address to the nation following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
"To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away," said Biden, who learned of the shooting at Robb Elementary School while on Air Force One returning from his trip to Asia. "There's a hollowness in your chest, you feel like you're being sucked into it, never able to get out. Suffocating. It's never quite the same."
A shooter identified as Salvador Romas opened fire at Robb Elementary School Tuesday, killing at least 18 students and one teacher. The gunman also died. Two police officers were shot and wounded but were expected to survive, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit," Biden said, quoting Psalm 34. Biden asked for prayers for the families and friends of the children but then turned to call for more restrictive gun laws.
"As a nation, we have to ask, when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name, will we do what we know in our gut what needs to be done?" Biden said.
"We have to act. Don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage," Biden added.
Biden called for "commonsense" gun laws, saying that "we know they work and have a positive impact." Biden claimed that after the assault weapons ban was passed in 1994, mass shootings went down. After the law expired in 2004, Biden said, "mass shootings tripled."
"What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for unless to kill someone?" Biden asked. "Deer aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on for God's sake."
Gun manufacturers have "spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit," Biden said. "For God's sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry," he added.
Biden said that other nations, which also have mental health illness, domestic violence and other concerns, do not see the same kinds of massacres. "These kind of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why?" he asked.
"Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?"
"It's time to turn this page into action," Biden said.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke earlier in the day. "Enough is enough," Harris 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," Harris said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., blamed Republicans for the shooting.
"There is no such thing as being ‘pro-life’ while supporting laws that let children be shot in their schools, elders in grocery stores, worshippers in their houses of faith, survivors by abusers, or anyone in a crowded place," she wrote on Twitter. "It is an idolatry of violence. And it must end."