An angry and emotional US president Joe Biden has sought to comfort the families of the victims of the latest mass shooting in the United States while at the same time putting pressure on politicians to back gun control reforms.
However, there are no indications that the latest tragedy will lead to the introduction of new controls any more than any of the others over recent years.
The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organisation that tracks gun attacks, has maintained that there have been 3,500 mass shootings across the US, involving four or more people being killed or injured, since the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012.
The president said that in the decade since then, there had been more than 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds.
Only on Monday, the FBI had released a report showing escalating numbers of shootings across the US. It identified 61 “active shooter” attacks that killed 103 people and injured 130 others in 2021. That was the highest annual total since 2017 when 143 people were killed.
Mr Biden, as a senator, had played a key role in putting in place a ban on assault weapons in 1994. However, this measure had a sunset clause which saw it expire automatically after the US congress failed to renew it a decade later. Mr Biden was also closely involved in trying to introduce gun control reforms in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting which left 20 children and six adults dead. However, these efforts were unsuccessful.
Since moving into the White House nearly 18 months ago, the president has championed gun controls. Several weeks ago he announced a clampdown on so-called “ghost guns” which can be manufactured from kits without a serial number and are untraceable.
However, the reality is that he does not have the votes in congress to have any far-reaching gun reforms enacted. His Democratic Party controls both houses, but in the senate 60 votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster by opposition Republicans.
Republicans and the powerful gun lobby have been opposed to any new controls. The National Rifle Association, one of the main gun rights groups, is scheduled to hold a major conference next weekend where former president Donald Trump is expected to speak.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is expected to move, possibly as early as later this week, to force votes on legislation that would strengthen background checks for gun purchasers. This would essentially seek to revive measures that Republicans have blocked in the past.
Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he was “horrified and heartbroken” by the events in Texas. However he gave no indication he would be changing his long-time opposition to gun controls. Republican senator Ted Cruz, who represents Texas, blamed Democrats “and a whole lot of folks in the media” for rushing to “try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens”.
Mr Biden sought to put the spotlight on the gun-manufacturing industry and its lobbyists in Washington and he urged politicians to have the courage to face them down. He said the idea of an 18-year-old kid walking into a store to buy two assault rifles was just wrong.
“Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?” Mr Biden asked.
“The gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit. For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry. Where in God’s name is our backbone?”