Biden visits Uvalde as DOJ announces review of how police responded to the attack
The Justice Department will conduct a review of the police response to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the department announced Sunday.
"The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events," DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.
Law enforcement officials in Texas have come under blistering criticism for their response to the massacre that left 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers dead.
The gunman spent more than an hour inside the school before he was ultimately killed by a tactical unit of Border Patrol agents, despite officers being on the scene for much of the attack.
Col. Steven McCraw of the Texas Department of Public Safety said at a Friday news conference that there were as many as 19 local and federal officers in the hallway during much of the shooting, but the commander on scene decided not to immediately go into the classroom because he believed the shooter had barricaded himself inside and no other people were at risk.
At least two students hiding in the classroom called 911 for help during the course of the shooting.
"It was the wrong decision. Period. There was no excuse for that," said McCraw.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during the press conference that he had been "misled" about the police response and expects a full investigation.
The DOJ inquiry comes at the request of Uvalde's mayor, Don McLaughlin, the department said.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing will conduct the review and publish a report with its findings after the review concludes, the department said.
President Biden is visiting Uvalde
The Justice Department's announcement came as President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Uvalde to pay their respects to the victims of the attack. The Bidens were scheduled to meet with victims' families and community leaders.
Shortly after landing in Texas, the president rode to Robb Elementary, where he and the first lady visited a makeshift memorial to the victims. The Bidens also attended a mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
During a commencement address at the University of Delaware on Saturday, Biden said, "evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, to far too many places where innocents have died." He added: "We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer."
The president arrived in Uvalde less than two weeks after he traveled to Buffalo to meet with the families of victims of another mass shooting there, which left 10 people dead after a racist attack at a supermarket.
Speaking from the White House on Tuesday in the hours after the Uvalde attack, the president made an urgent call for action on gun safety.
"As a nation we have to ask, 'When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?'" Biden said. "When in God's name are we going to do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?"
Prospects for federal legislation appear dim
As the president traveled to Uvalde, Democrats in Congress continued to push on Sunday for federal gun control legislation, despite an uncertain path forward. The party controls the White House and Congress, but falls short of the 60 votes it would need in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by Republicans.
"It's inconceivable to me that we have not passed significant federal legislation trying to address the tragedy of gun violence in this nation, especially because since Sandy Hook, we've seen even worse slaughter," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on ABC's This Week.
Murphy, who was elected to Congress just before the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in his home state in 2012, is leading a group of lawmakers hoping to reach a deal with Republicans on gun legislation. While Democrats have called for universal background checks and banning assault rifles, Republicans have largely narrowed their focus to addressing mental health and security in schools.
"I think what needs to change is the things that would have the most immediate and succinct effect — and tangible effect on these things — and that's actual security at a school," Rep Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
"A lot of these policies that I think the Democrats often propose that are gun control policies, they do two things," Crenshaw added. "One, they infringe on the rights of millions and millions of gun owners. And two, they probably wouldn't have the outcome that you're hoping for."
Bob Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control, told NPR that despite the renewed negotiations, the chances of a bipartisan deal on gun legislation remain small.
"I think the likelihood the Senate will act is still vanishingly small, but it's not zero."
The Associated Press contributed reporting