(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden, marking one year since the Uvalde school shooting, on Wednesday called on Republicans in Congress to act to end the "epidemic" of gun violence in the United States.
Before delivering somber remarks, Biden and first lady Jill Biden honored the lives lost with a display of 21 candles assembled at the base of the White House grand staircase.
"Remembering is important but it's also painful," he said with the first lady standing by his side. "One year ago today, Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, turned into another killing field in America."
Nineteen fourth graders and two teachers were killed when a gunman stormed Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022. Seventeen others were injured.
Biden renewed his call for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, national red flag laws and other gun control measures.
"In over the last year since Uvalde, our country's experienced a staggering 650 mass shootings. Well over, it's hard to say, well over 40,000 deaths due to gun violence," Biden said.
"We can't end this epidemic until Congress has some commonsense gun safety laws to keep weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people," he continued. "Until states do the same thing, how many more parents will live their worst nightmare before we stand up for gun lobbying?"
Biden on the day of the shooting in Uvalde spoke of how he was "sick and tired" of gun violence, saying we "can do so much more." The shooting came 10 days after a gunman attacked a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people.
The president and the first lady traveled to Uvalde days after the shooting and met with the victims' families.
"Standing there in Uvalde, Jill and I couldn't help but think that too many schools, too many every day places have become killing fields in communities all across every part of America," he said on Wednesday. "And in each place, hear the same message. Do something. For God's sake, please do something."
Biden also took a few moments Wednesday to connect with those grieving families by speaking to the loss of their son Beau, who died on May 30, 2015.
"Everyone's pain is different," he said, adding that one day their memory will bring a smile to their face "before it brings a tear to your eye."
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that the president believes the Uvalde shooting and the Buffalo supermarket shooting were the catalyst for Congress passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
"While he's very, he's very appreciative of what Congress was able to do, there's so much more to be done ... We need to see Congress do something more, do more," she told ABC News. "Put forward some commonsense, gun reform. That's what these families deserve. That's what they should be able to see."
Biden emphasized Wednesday that "it's time to act."
"It's time to make our voices heard. Not as Democrats or as Republicans. But as friends, as neighbors, as parents, as fellow Americans and I'm being deadly earnest when I say that," he said.