To the families of the 23 souls lost on this day two years ago in El Paso, Jill and I send you our love. While our losses are not the same as yours, grief is universal. We know the pain of today may still feel as fresh as it was when you first heard the news, knowing all that you lost can never be replaced.
For the loved ones left behind, it has been two years of pain thinking of big and small things. The goals he won’t have the chance to score on the soccer field. The young infant who is now walking but without his parents holding his hand with pride – parents who showed the ultimate act of love and bravery. There is the pain of two years of birthdays and holidays, family dinners, and church services that have never been the same. There is the pain of being unable to continue to commemorate, grieve, and heal together due to a pandemic that has taken so much from us all.
You lost educators and a bus driver. Grandparents and grandchildren. Americans and Mexicans and a German citizen. Families just out running errands. Each a life of meaning and potential and part of what makes El Paso strong. As hard as it is to believe, I want you to know that the day will come when the memory of the one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. That day will come, and my prayer for you is that it comes sooner rather than later.
To the broader community of El Paso – we continue to be in awe of your courage and resilience. On that day, you showed who we are at our best as Americans.
And to the country, this somber day is a reminder of the unfinished work to heal the soul of this nation. Two years ago, a gunman armed with rage and rifle targeted the people of El Paso, and our most deeply held American values. He chose this city defined by its diversity that celebrates its rich Hispanic heritage and connection with the people of Ciudad Juárez.
He thought that his hatred of immigrants could prove more powerful than the culture and vibrancy of the people of this community. He was wrong. Yet America’s intelligence community has confirmed what the people of El Paso know all too well: the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy. We cannot ignore it. We must confront the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form.
To that end, in June my administration laid out our country’s first-ever comprehensive effort to tackle the threat posed by domestic terrorism. We are doing so by taking action to reduce online radicalization and recruitment to violence. We’re also disrupting the networks that inspire such violence by domestic terrorists and hate groups and providing resources to communities to build resilience.
As we work together to counter the forces of violent hatred, we must also commit to ending the plague of gun violence that steals innocent lives and continues to devastate our communities. I will continue to do everything I can to fight for commonsense gun laws that Americans overwhelmingly support and I call again on Congress to do what we know will make a difference, including a ban of weapons of war — assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like the one that ravaged and pierced this city. And, I will continue to act to reduce gun crime using existing authority — ranging from reining in the proliferation of “ghost guns” to investing in community policing and community violence interventions that can save countless lives.
In the days after the shooting, I said we must join together as Americans and stand united against hate and violence. I believe that with even greater resolve and urgency today. We must all work together to defend our values, our democracy, and our freedom to live together peacefully. We owe it to the families of El Paso. We owe it to each other and for the soul of our very country.
May God bless the 23 souls lost on this day in El Paso and their loved ones left behind.
Joe Biden is the president of the United States of America. This column originally appeared in the El Paso Times.
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This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: President Joe Biden on El Paso shooting: 'Stand united against hate'