There's still much that's unknown about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman has reportedly killed at least 19 children and three adults at an elementary school. President Joe Biden nevertheless gave a brief post-shooting speech in which he endorsed the passage of new gun control legislation as a means of preventing similar tragic events.
"When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" said an emotional Biden from the White House Tuesday night. "When in God's name are we going to do what we know needs to be done?"
Reuters reports that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) identified the shooter as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who killed his grandmother today prior to the killings at Uvalde's Robb Elementary School. A border patrol agent on duty nearby reportedly rushed into the school and killed Ramos, reports A.P. citing an anonymous law enforcement source.
It's not clear whether Ramos is included among the three adults killed in the shooting.
Texas Public Safety Department Sergeant Erick Estrada told CNN in a live interview with Anderson Cooper that Ramos crashed his car near the school, and was engaged by law enforcement. It's not clear from Estrada's comments whether that encounter happened outside the school or not. Ramos was able to enter the school and carry out the massacre.
Estrada said that Ramos had a rifle and backpack, but otherwise gave few details about what kinds of weapons he was carrying or how he obtained them. He also said he didn't have any information on the shooter's motivations or whether he had a history of police encounters or domestic violence.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D–San Antonio)—whose district includes Uvalde and who said he spoke with law enforcement—said that Ramos was in possession of two "military-style" rifles he purchased on his 18th birthday, reports the Associated Press.
Biden said tonight that this latest shooting was the 900th episode of gunfire on school grounds since the Sandy Hook shooting. The president didn't cite a source for that figure. Aggregate counts of school shootings will often include shootings that happen after school hours, on college campuses, and in student housing.
Biden repeatedly said tonight that new gun control laws could put an end to the "carnage" of mass shootings.
In particular, the president said that the 1994 ban on "assault weapons" he helped pass as a senator reduced mass shootings, and that mass shootings tripled after the ban lapsed in 2004. Research is inconclusive on whether the assault weapons ban had any effect on mass shootings. Mass shootings are also a tiny percentage of all homicides, which continued to fall after the assault weapons ban expired.
The president said he learned about the shooting on his way back from a trip to Asia, where he met with leaders of Australia, Japan, and India. He seemingly endorsed those countries' far more stringent gun control policies.
"They have mental health problems, they have domestic disputes in other countries, they have people who are lost," he said. "These kinds of mass shootings never happen at the frequency that they happen in America."
"The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God's name do need an assault weapon for but to kill someone," he continued. "Deer aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on."
With so few details available about this particular shooting, it's unclear what particular policies could have possibly prevented this tragic event.
The president was still happy to strike a partisan note in favor of gun control in closing out his speech.
"It's time for those who obstruct, delay, or block the common sense gun laws to let you know that we will not forget," he said. "We can do so much more. We have to do more."