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Biden meets with first responders and families of school shooting victims in Texas

The trip was the president's second visit to the site of a mass shooting in as many weeks.

UVALDE, Texas — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Sunday met with first responders and families of the victims of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two teachers.

After arriving in the state, the Bidens visited a memorial site outside Robb Elementary School, laying flowers in honor of the victims, before they met with and comforted grieving families.

Cameras at the memorial site captured the president wiping away a tear.

It was Biden’s second visit to the site of a mass shooting in as many weeks. On May 17, Biden made a similar trip to Buffalo, New York, where he met with community leaders and the families of victims of a racially motivated mass shooting at a grocery store in that city. 

Later on Sunday, the Bidens traveled to Garner Fields to meet with paramedics, mental health service providers, firefighters and law enforcement officials.

En route, the presidential motorcade passed onlookers who captured the scene with their phones' cameras. Children held up a sign: “Thank you, Joe and Jill.” 

The meeting with first responders was closed to the news media. Afterward, the Bidens returned to Marine One, which delivered them back to San Antonio, where Air Force One was staged for their return flight to Delaware.

Amid the trip, the Justice Department said that it would conduct a review of law enforcement's response on the day of the shooting.

State officials on Friday admitted to a number of failures in responding to the shooting, including that police made the “wrong decision” by waiting to confront the shooter.

Earlier in the day, the Bidens attended Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where they spoke with religious leaders. They sat in the front row center aisle as Gustavo García-Siller, the archbishop of San Antonio, led the service.

“Our hearts are broken with sadness and mourning but we know God is with us,” García-Siller said.

Uvalde residents Ralph Salinas, and his wife, Cynthia, said, "It's consoling to know that the president cares."

Rebecca Espanol, another resident, said the Bidens’ attendance was uplifting. “Today was very special because of what we’ve been going through,” she said. “It’s been sad the whole week — it’s been very sad.”

President Joe Biden and Jill Biden pay their respects at a memorial outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 29, 2022.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects Sunday at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Before leaving the church, Biden walked over to demonstrators gathered nearby and, as they chanted "Do something," he responded by mouthing the words "We will."

In recent days, the president has increasingly pleaded for lawmakers to take action, accusing those who oppose new restrictions on firearms of caving in to pressure from the gun industry and gun-rights advocates.

While a bipartisan group of lawmakers have restarted talks on passing some type of gun control bill there is little optimism in Washington that the group will be able to get the 60 votes needed to pass even a slimmed-down version of what Biden is calling for. 

As Biden arrived in Uvalde, he was greeted by a city not only struggling with grief but also unanswered questions about how the police radio traffic event unfolded and the police response.

Police there have faced criticism from both inside and outside the community for waiting about an hour before directly confronting the shooter. 

Pettypiece reported from Washington, Planas from Uvalde.