Biden Speaks at White House Candlelight Memorial For Anniversary of Uvalde Shooting

US President Joe Biden spoke at a memorial event at the White House on the first anniversary of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.

Video streamed by the White House shows the president and First Lady Jill Biden paying respects at the candlelight memorial before the president’s remarks on Wednesday. Credit: The White House via Storyful

Video transcript

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Before I begin, I'm beginning, but I realize it's a really tough day for all the families. Remembering is important, but it's also painful. One year ago today, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas turned into another killing field in America.

A few days later, Jill and I traveled there and stood before those 21 crosses outside the school. On each cross, a name, like in these candles behind us-- 19 children, 9, 10, 11 years old, and two devoted educators, and 17 more injured. We spent hours with the grieving families who were broken and will never ever quite be the same.

To the families of the children and the educators who we know one year later, it's still so raw for you, a year of missed birthdays and holidays, school plays, soccer games, just that smile-- a year of everyday joy is gone forever. The bend of his smile, the perfect pitch of her laugh. At a vigil a few months later, one of the moms said when I lay in bed and turn to my side envisioning her staring back at me, I want so badly to be part of an alternative reality that just doesn't exist.

This is my reality, because my 10-year-old daughter was murdered in her fourth grade classroom. Standing there in Uvalde, Jill and I couldn't help but think that too many schools, too many everyday places have become killing fields in communities all across every part of America. And in each place, we hear the same message-- do something. For God's sake, please do something.

We did something afterwards, but not nearly enough. We still need to ban, in my view, AR-15 firearms and assault weapons once again. They've been used time and again in mass killings of innocent children, of people. We need to ban high capacity magazines, the ability to shoot 20, 30, 40, 50 60 bullets without reloading.

Because, today guns remain the number one killer-- the number one killer of children in America. Guns. Over the last year since Uvalde, our country has experienced a staggering 650 mass shootings. And well over-- it's hard to say-- well over 40,000 deaths due to gun violence.

We can't end this epidemic until Congress passes some common sense gun safety laws to keep weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people. Until states do the same thing, how many more parents will live their worst nightmare before we stand up to the gun lobby, to establish universal background checks, establish a national red flag laws, require safe storage of firearms, and end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers-- the only major corporate entity that doesn't have-- that's immune to liability.

Even a majority of responsible gun owners support these common sense actions to save lives and keep our communities safe. So it's time to act. It's time to act. It's time to make our voices heard-- not as Democrats or Republicans, but as friends, as neighbors, as parents, as fellow Americans.

And I'm being deadly earnest when I say that. I know for a long time, it's been hard to make progress. But there will come a point where our voices are so loud, our determination so clear that we can no longer be stopped. We will act.

A year ago, after visiting the school, that same day, we attended mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In the pews, families and friends hold each other tightly. As the archbishop spoke, he asked the children in attendance to come up on the altar and sit with him as he spoke on the altar.

There wasn't enough room for everybody to go up on the altar, so a mom and a young son sat next to us. They had us in the first pew, and they sat next to us. As we left the church, a grandmother who just lost her granddaughter came up to us and quietly passed us a note, a handwritten letter. And here's what it read, erase the invisible line that has divided our nation.

Come up with a solution, and fix what's broken, and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from ever happening again. My fellow Americans, you know, you can-- you almost feel the pain. For we've lost-- we've lost children. We have to do this to save our children, for the nation we love, to erase that invisible line.

I stand here today, as earlier this morning we were talking about planning a memorial service this weekend celebrating the anniversary of the death of our son, Beau-- well, guess what? While everyone's pain is different, we, like many of you, have some understanding what it's like to lose a child on more than one occasion.

For those who lost a loved one in Uvalde, to the moms, and dads, the brothers, and sisters, grandmoms or grandpops, this is what I know-- one, they'll never be gone from your heart. They'll always be part of you. And I know this as well-- as unbelievable as it sounds, I promise you, they will come.

When you pass that ice cream store, you pass that park, you passed that thing that brings back the memory of your son or daughter, it's going to bring a smile to your lips when you think of them before it brings a tear to your eye. That's when you know you're going to make it. And our prayer for you from the bottom of our heart is that they will come sooner than later-- sooner than later.

But God willing, it will come. I said that's when you know you're going to make it. God bless those 21 blessed souls lost to this day in Uvalde. And may God bless their families. We're thinking of you.