Biden travels to Buffalo to grieve shooting victims, condemn racial violence

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the US Capitol in Washington, May 15, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

President Joe Biden is in Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday to console the families of victims of a mass shooting this weekend where a lone white gunman targeted a Black community in the latest example of racist violence that the president’s campaign promised to quell in the months ahead of the 2020 election.

Biden will spend much of the day in western New York state, where law enforcement officials say Payton Gendron, 18, committed an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” when he shot 13 people with a semi-automatic rifle at the Tops Friendly Market on Saturday . Ten people were killed.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday morning that the president and first lady Jill Biden plan to “pay their respects to the lives lost in Saturday’s tragic shooting” and meet with local law enforcement and first responders.

She added that the Bidens plan to visit a Tops Market memorial to offer his respects and deliver remarks at a community center in the early afternoon.

US Senators from New York Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader, and Kirsten Gillibrand joined the president on Air Force One and are expected to offer their own sympathies to victims’ families. Schumer and Gillibrand are both Democrats.

Jean-Pierre, speaking aboard Air Force One, said that the president plans to use his speech, scheduled for 1 pm ET, to denounce racial prejudice and urge Congress to pass new measures to reduce gun crime and domestic terrorism.

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“The president will call this despicable act what it is: Terrorism motivated by a hateful and perverse ideology that tears at the soul of our nation,” she said.

Biden wants lawmakers “to take action to keep weapons of war off our streets and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people who have a serious mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves or others,” Jean-Pierre added.

As a presidential candidate in 2020, Biden promised to curb racism across the country. He often contrasted himself with former President Donald Trump, who at first failed to condemn a lethal white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to the 10 people killed in a mass shooting by a gunman authorities say was motivated by racism, at the TOPS Friendly Markets memorial site in Buffalo, NY, US May 17, 2022.

Leah Millis | Reuters

In August 2020, months before his victory, Biden said the bigotry of the Charlottesville rally convinced him to challenge Trump.

“It was a wake-up call for us as a country. And, for me, a call to action,” Biden said at the time. “At that moment, I knew I’d have to run” for president.

But Tuesday’s trip to Buffalo will again highlight the steep challenges facing Biden and other Democrats who say gun control measures are critical to reduce racial violence.

The Biden administration has made little progress in quashing the rise of white supremist groups or gun deaths. Scores of Republicans lawmakers have for years thwarted efforts to advance gun control legislation in the aftermaths of dozens of shootings.

The president has asked Congress to compile new background checks for firearm buyers, bar high-capacity magazines and outlaw military-style assault weapons for civilian use.

Police on Sunday said they were investigating Gendron’s social media profiles, including a 180-page manifesto he is suspected of writing that explains the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory that racial minorities seek to replace and disempower white people in the US