“It is time to turn pain into action,” insisted the American president, visibly moved, in a solemn address at the White House.
“When for God’s sake are we going to face the gun lobby?” Biden said, saying he was “sick and tired” over the litany of school shootings. This latest tragedy claimed the lives of children as young as ten years old.
The gunman killed his victims “in an atrocious and senseless manner” in the town of Uvalde, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.
Identified as Salvador Ramos, he also died in this massacre which affected the town located about 130 kilometers west of San Antonio.
He was killed by police, officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety said, adding that two adults also died in the attack.
“So far, 19 children have been killed by this evil shooter, along with two teachers from this school,” Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez told NBC News.
More than a dozen children were also injured, according to information from Texas hospitals.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital posted on Facebook that they received 13 children while University Health Hospital in San Antonio reported on Twitter that they received a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl, both in critical condition, as well as two other girls aged 9 and 10.
The shooter was wearing at least a rifle and a paramilitary outfit, Sergeant Erick Estrada told CNN.
Salvador Ramos, of American nationality, would have first targeted his grandmother, whose state of health remained to be clarified, before going to school by car to perpetrate his massacre there.
The motives for this attack, one of the worst in a school for years, remain unknown for the moment.
– Children under 10 –
The shooting occurred at Robb Primary School, which serves children under the age of 10 in Uvalde.
More than 500 children, nearly 90% of whom are Hispanic, were studying at the school during the 2020-2021 school year, according to state data.
Videos shared on social networks showed children evacuated in an emergency, shaking hands or running in small groups towards yellow school buses, in front of this establishment with low and flat buildings, typical of the south of the United States.
The shooting occurred while Joe Biden was on his way home from his Asia tour. He spoke in the evening, upon his arrival at the White House.
“Too much is too much,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, calling for “action” on the subject of gun violence, a national scourge.
“Our hearts continue to be broken,” she said. “We must find the courage to act,” she added to the address of Congress, powerless to legislate despite the tragedies.
The White House has also ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast in all public buildings to “honor the victims” of Uvalde.
The attack plunged the country back into the throes of school shootings, which are frequently repeated with shocking images of traumatized students forced to confine themselves to their classrooms before being evacuated by law enforcement and parents panicked, desperate to hear from their children.
– Sterile debate –
The tragedy is reminiscent of that of Sandy Hook Elementary School, which occurred in 2012 in Connecticut, where a 20-year-old mentally retarded man killed 26 people, including twenty children aged 6 and 7, before committing suicide.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from this state in the northeastern United States, “begged” his elected colleagues on Tuesday to act, assuring that these tragedies were not “inevitable”.
“It only happens in this country, and nowhere else. In no other country do children go to school thinking they might get shot.”
America was also particularly marked by a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people, the majority of them teenagers, in 2018.
This new killing, all the more shocking as the victims are children, will not fail to revive criticism of the proliferation of firearms in the United States, a debate which is running practically empty given the absence of hope adoption by Congress of an ambitious national law on the issue.
The leader of the Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, denounced a “monstrous act which stole the future of dear children”. “There are no words that can describe the pain and outrage at the cold-blooded slaughter of little schoolchildren and a teacher,” she wrote in a statement.