President Joe Biden on Friday demanded an end to mass shootings and called it a 'national embarrassment' that the Senate won't act on House-passed gun control legislation.
Speaking at a brief White House press conference on a day when he once again ordered flags at half staff in tribute to those lost in a mass shooting event, Biden defended his record and his effort, saying he 'strongly' supports background check legislation.
President Biden calls on Senate Republicans to support gun control legislation passed by the House: "This has to end. It is a national embarrassment...Every single day, there's a mass shooting in the United States." https://t.co/xGULhZKDVm pic.twitter.com/cAwnUqsLqh— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 16, 2021
'I continue, and I strongly, strongly urge my Republican friends in the Congress who have refused to bring up the House passed bill to bring it up now,' he intoned.
'Who in God's name needs a weapon that can hold 100 rounds or 40 rounds, or 20 rounds?' Biden asked, calling it 'just wrong.'
'This has to end. It's a national embarrassment. It is a national embarrassment what's going on. And it's not only these mass shootings that are occurring every single day. Every single day. There's a mass shooting this in the United States if you count all those who are killed out in the streets of our cities and our rural areas. It's a national embarrassment and must come to an end,' Biden said.
Biden fielded a question about how he selected his priorities, at an event alongside the Japanese prime minister, amid Biden's big push for infrastructure.
'I've never not prioritized this, no one has worked harder to deal with violence, used by individuals using weapons and I have,' said Biden, talking up his work as a legislator that has long stymied and often divided Democrats and drawn fierce Republican opposition.
'I strongly support, I strongly support the universal background checks, which I continue to push. The Congress has to step up and act, the Senate has to act, and I strongly support ... have never stopped supporting the ban on assault weapons and magazines and hold more than 10 bullets.'
He said he is able to work on the pandemic and the economy even while pushing the measures.
'But it's not a question of my been able to set the agenda in the Senate as to what they will move to first,' Biden said.
Then he spoke to gun owners.
'And one last thing, the folks who own weapons, the folks who own guns, they support universal background checks, the majority of them think we should not be selling assault weapons. Who in God's name needs a weapon that can hold 100 rounds or 40 rounds, or 20 rounds?'
'And I'm not going to give up till is done,' he vowed.
Biden ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the White House and public buildings Friday following yet another mass shooting event in the country – this time at an Indiana FedEx facility.
The president said he and Vice President Kamala Harris have been briefed by their security team on the incident 'where a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night.'
His statement comes after he has already ordered flags at half staff in recent weeks for prior mass shootings in Atlanta and Colorado, and amid an ongoing impasse in Congress that has prevented a legislative response.
'Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act,' he said, just days after announcing executive actions in the wake of the earlier shootings.
'Today’s briefing is just the latest in a string of tragedies, following closely after gunmen firing bullets in broad day light at spas in and around Atlanta, Georgia, a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and so many other shootings,' wrote Biden.
'While we await critical details about the shooting, its motivation, and other key information, once again, I have the solemn duty of ordering the flag lowered at half-staff at the White House, public buildings and grounds, and military posts and embassies, just two weeks after I gave the last such order,' he wrote.
'It’s a mass shooting just a week after we met, in the Rose Garden, with families who lost children and dear friends as bullets pierced their bodies and souls in schools, a night club, in a car at a gas station, and a town meeting at a grocery store. And it came just the night before [the] 14th anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech, in which a gunman murdered 32 people,' he continued.
Speaking in emotional terms, Biden spoke in the official statement about the turmoil of the families who lost loved ones.
'Last night and into the morning in Indianapolis, yet again families had to wait to hear word about the fate of their loved ones. What a cruel wait and fate that has become too normal and happens every day somewhere in our nation,' he said.
He pointed to prior actions – and urged Congress to 'hear the call of the American people – including the vast majority of gun owners – to enact commonsense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks and a ban of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines.'
'Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,' said Biden.
'We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives,' he added, although White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not preview any additional steps when asked about the latest shooting.
Pressed on what more Biden would do, she tried to put the onus on congressional Republicans who have resisted background check legislation that is popular with the public.
Police say the gunman and the eight victims he killed in the Indianapolis FedEx shooting massacre still have not been identified as desperate families waited in a nearby hotel for news of their relatives some 12 hours after the rampage unfolded.
The rampage started at the FedEx operations center in Indianapolis just after 11pm on Thursday when the gunman immediately opened fire with a rifle after getting out of his car in the parking lot. He kept shooting as he made his way into the facility before killing himself as police arrived on the scene.
Four people were killed outside the building and another four inside. Several people were also wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital.
Pres. Biden, who has faced pressure to call more forcefully for gun control measures, noted in his statement that Congress must act next, including on some gun control legislation already passed by the House. https://t.co/Lrnfa6BoFW— ABC News (@ABC) April 16, 2021
During a press conference on Friday morning, deputy police chief Craig McCartt revealed that the eight victims have still not yet been identified.
Harrowing images emerged overnight of family members gathering at a nearby hotel to await word or be reunited with loved ones.
Officials with the coroner's office said they have not been able to get to the scene to identify the victims because evidence is still being collected. They said in Indiana that a positive ID is confirmed by identification by a family member, dental, DNA and fingerprints.
McCartt said they were also still working to confirm the gunman's identity but they 'have an idea' of who he might be. The FBI are in the process of searching a home possibly linked to the shooter, authorities said.
He said authorities are still 'several hours' away from fully processing the crime scene.
McCartt would not speculate if the gunman was an employee and refused to say if witnesses had recognized him.
Authorities were still trying to determine the gunman's connection, if any, to the FedEx warehouse.
Describing the rampage, McCartt said the carnage took just a couple of minutes.
'It did not last very long,' he said, adding that police do not yet know the motive for the shooting.
'The suspect came to the facility. He got out of his car and pretty quickly started some random shooting. There was no confrontation. He just started randomly shooting. He went into the facility for a brief period of time,' he said.
McCartt said he doesn't believe the gunman made it through a security area where employees are required to show ID and go through metal detectors.
In the early hours of Friday morning, more than 100 frantic relatives of warehouse workers rushed to the scene before being told to wait at a nearby hotel for news on the victims.
Some were seen still dressed in their pajamas and many were still waiting to be reunited with relatives by mid-morning on Friday.
'When you see notifications on your phone, but you're not getting a text back from your kid and you're not getting information and you still don't know where they are... what are you supposed to do?' said Mindy Carson, holding back tears in the early hours of Friday. Her daughter, Jessica, works in the facility and she still had not heard from her.
Police said the 'frustrating' delay in reuniting relatives was due to the fact that some employees are not allowed to carry their cellphones on them while on the warehouse floor.
That policy meant many employees were forced to flee without being able to retrieve their phones, which are often locked away elsewhere. FedEx is understood to be reevaluating this policy in the wake of the shooting.
Police said they do not believe the cellphone policy meant they delayed in receiving the initial 911 calls reporting the incident.
Employees have since detailed their accounts of the rampage, with one employee Levi Miller telling NBC's Today that he heard more than a dozen shots before he saw the hooded gunman screaming and firing.
'I stand up, I see a man, a hooded figure,' he said. 'I was unable to see his face in detail. However, the man did have an AR in his hand, and he started shouting and then he started firing at random directions.'
Miller said he didn't recognize the gunman but his colleagues had said he was a 'well-known worker at this facility'. He said it was possible the gunman was trying to target the manager.
Other eyewitness accounts also confirmed the gunman was armed with a rifle.
One eyewitnesses reported seeing a 'man with a sub-machine gun or automatic rifle' firing in the open before people started fleeing.
Two more eyewitnesses reported seeing a man getting a gun from the trunk of his car.
One victim's uncle told Fox59 his niece had been sitting in her car when a gunman opened fire on her. He said she was recovering in hospital.
Another man told WTTV that his niece was sitting in her car in the driver's seat when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded. 'She got shot on her left arm,' said Parminder Singh. 'She's fine, she's in the hospital now.'
He said his niece did not know the shooter.
WRTV reports that workers hid under conveyor belts during the incident.
Timothy Boillat, another employee at the facility, told WISH-TV that he saw around 30 police cars arriving at the scene as he witnessed the shooting unfold.
'After hearing the shootings, I did see a body on the floor,' he said. 'Luckily, I was far enough away to where he [the shooter] didn't see me.'
It was the latest in a recent string of mass shootings across the U.S. Last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses across the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
It was at least the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis alone. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.