After Texas shooting, a resigned White House throws its hands up in frustration
14,000 killed in 201 mass shootings this year alone; White House acknowledged that the US was the only country in the world that faces a crisis of this nature
Washington: In the Brady briefing room of the White House, on Monday afternoon, when press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began her press conference, she reeled off numbers.
“It is the 128th day of 2023. And yesterday…we witnessed the 201st mass shooting in this country this year. That means we are averaging more than one a day. More than 200 mass shootings in 128 days. Credible estimates show that more than 14,000 people have died this year from gun violence.”
Jean-Pierre’s remarks were triggered by the latest incident of mass shooting in Texas, where an Indian engineer, Aishwarya Thatikonda, was killed along with seven other people, including children, in a mall in Dallas.
Back in Washington DC, the mood was dark. The flags at White House were flying half mast. Questions at the press briefing were all about the shooting and what President Joe Biden was doing about it. And the White House’s response was best captured in a phrase that Jean-Pierre used repeatedly — we are frustrated.
“This is a crisis…We are talking about the number-one killer of kids in America…Schools, shopping malls, churches, movie theatres, grocery stores, temples — places that are a part of our everyday lives, that are essential to our everyday lives — day after day are coming under attack from weapons of war that have no place on our streets.”
She candidly acknowledged that the United States was the only country in the world that faces a crisis of this nature. “This is the only country in the world that has this going on right now. The only country that has to deal with gun violence, mass shootings in this way. That shouldn’t be.”
But what next? Claiming that the President had done all that he could — Biden has taken two dozen executive actions and played a major role in shepherding a limited gun safety legislation through the Congress last year — Jean-Pierre placed the blame squarely on Republicans in the Congress.
“Congress must address this crisis. Yesterday, the President once again asked Congress to send him a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, ending immunity for manufacturers, requiring safe storage, enacting universal background check. It’s just common sense.”
But it is unlikely that there will be any action in the Congress. Republicans remain committed to an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment — the constitutional provision that allows Americans to bear arms. They are in a majority in the House of Representatives. And with a competitive presidential election season approaching, observers see little scope for bipartisan cooperation on an issue as contentious as gun control.
With reports that the Texas gunman was inspired by White Supremacism, Jean-Pierre said that Biden, on his first day in office, had begun developing what became the national strategy to counter domestic terrorism. “We have spoken out consistently about the concerning rise in hate-fuelled violence in this country.”
But what was clearest in the White House press briefing on Monday was that faced with a gun violence “epidemic”, among the most powerful offices in the office was publicly helpless, resigned and frustrated, unable to move the needle to make America even a tiny bit safer.