Biden asks America:‘Why are we willing to live with this carnage?’

Washington: Does it really need to be like this? Should going to school be an occupational hazard for the sake of the Second Amendment?

As US President Joe Biden lamented on Tuesday evening:“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

The horror was unthinkable yet all too familiar.

US President Joe Biden has called for action after a shooting at a Texas primary school killed at least 18 children and three adults.

At least 19 children and two teachers were shot dead in cold blood at an elementary school in south Texas. An 18-year-old gunman walked onto the site and opened fire after reportedly shooting his grandmother at their home. It is the second deadliest US school shootingafter Sandy Hook.

“The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong,” the president said,in a searing speech that took aim at gun manufacturers and the powerful gun rights lobby.

“These kind of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings don’t happen with the frequency they happen in America.”

Texas state troopers outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

Texas state troopers outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.Bloomberg

It was a powerful speech,but yet another speech over another senseless school shooting,following in the footsteps of Sandy Hook,Columbine,Marjory Stoneman Douglas High - the list goes on. And on. And on.

The fact that this massacre took placeone week after Biden was in Buffalo,New York,consoling families of those killed after another 18-year-old gunman opened fire at a supermarket should tell you enough about America’s perpetual problem with gun violence.

But the appalling reality is that the carnage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde marks the 27th shooting to take place in a US school this year alone,according to tracking service Education Week,and the 212th mass shooting since January,based on figures from the Gun Violence Archive.

Every time,the same dance occurs. Thoughts and prayers. Promises to take action. Then deafening silence.

President Joe Biden speaks about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary alongside First Lady Jill Biden

President Joe Biden speaks about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary alongside First Lady Jill BidenAP

“Why do we keep letting this happen?” Biden asked. “Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbyists?”

Biden was vice president to former president Barack Obama when the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting took place in December 2012,in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother at their family home before going to the school and killing 20 children and six adults. He then turned the gun on himself.

The massacre at Robb Elementary,about 135 kilometres from San Antonio,has parallels – a dead family,a young gunman – and marks the deadliest shooting at an elementary school since then. But if the death count rises in coming days,it could end up being the worst.

According to district officials,the school has just under 600 students,catering from years 2 to 4. That’s about 600 children aged between 7 and 10,who most likely crouched behind their desks,whispering in hushed tones as they tried to avoid an active shooter,not to mention parents who sent their sons and daughters off to class not realising they would never see them again.

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The gunman,Salvador Ramos,a local resident,is now dead and the investigation into his motives will continue. So too will the loss and the grief of this shattered community.

It’s the kind of grief Biden,who was on a plane returning from the Quad summit in Japan when the news broke,is all too familiar with,as the nation’s consoler-in-chief.

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But Biden knows all too well Capitol Hill’s history of inaction when it comes to gun laws. Even after Sandy Hook,the pace of change was painstakingly slow.

Now facing a hostile Senate almost 10 years later,the most the president can do is repeat his calls for Congress to pass laws expanding background checks and assault weapons,or merely tweak around the edges with executive orders.

Texas – a state that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy but fiercely defends the right to bear arms – is also unlikely to embark on any major reform.

Indeed,in the immediate aftermath of the Robb Elementary School tragedy,conservatives across the state were instead pushing to “harden our schools”,arm more teachers and boost armed security at every school entrance.

This Friday,former president Donald Trump,Texas Governor Greg Abbott,and Republican senators such as Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are also due to speak at aNational Rifle Association event which is billed as “a celebration of Second Amendment rights”.

“I am sick and tired of it,” Biden said. “We have to act.”

That much is clear. But what will it take to finally do so?

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Farrah Tomazin is the North America correspondent for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

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