President Joe Biden opened his remarks announcing a police reform executive order by remembering the victims of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting and calling on the Senate to confirm his nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
“To state the obvious: I’m sick and tired of what’s going on,” Biden said. He said the Senate could help ensure existing federal gun laws are enforced by confirming Steve Dettelbach as ATF director. Biden’s previous nominee, David Chipman, was withdrawn last year amid Senate opposition.
“Enough is enough,” said Vice President Kamala Harris in her introductory remarks touching on the mass shooting, reiterating Biden’s comments about having “the courage” to take on “the gun lobby.”
Biden said he would travel to Texas in the coming days. Earlier Wednesday, first lady Jill Biden told reporters “of course” she and her husband would fly to Uvalde, Texas, to comfort the community grieving for the 19 children and two fourth-grade teachers shot dead at Robb Elementary School.
But the president also argued the Second Amendment had limits, saying “you couldn’t own a canon” when it was ratified and that there were gun control measures that could be passed that would address the violence without infringing on constitutional rights.
“The Second Amendment’s not absolute,” he said.
Jill Biden also called for action earlier in the day.
“The sudden, senseless massacre in an elementary school, little children and their teachers, Eva and Irma,” the first lady said, “let us pray that God cradles those broken families in the palm of his hand.”
“But let us also pray to use the will and courage God gives each of us to act united with common sense to protect our children,” she added.
The president previously addressed the nation late Tuesday from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. The president expressed his frustration with congressional gridlock, yet he did not propose specific reforms. He did reference his past work passing an assault weapons ban, which has since lapsed and not been renewed.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” Biden asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbies?”
He continued: “It’s time to turn this pain into action.”