Following the memorial visit, the Bidens went on to attend Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, kneeling before the cross at the altar and then taking their seats for the service. The first lady interacted with members of the congregation ahead of the service, which began with a pianist and violinist playing a rendition of “Ave Maria.”

Biden’s visit comes in the wake of heavy scrutiny around the delayed response of the Uvalde Police Department during Tuesday’s shooting, with many noting that their tactic of waiting for a SWAT team to arrive directly contravened official guidance on how to deescalate an active shooter scenario. Many are hoping (however optimistically, given the historical precedents) that Biden’s visit will mark the beginning of a new phase of concrete action against the gun violence epidemic in America. 

Serving as the backdrop to today’s proceedings was the annual N.R.A. convention this weekend, at which former President Donald Trump argued in an address that the shooting should strengthen the case for regular citizens to be armed. Still, despite the pressures of the gun lobby, a bipartisan group of senators is expected to meet this week to discuss potential measures that could impose new restrictions on access to weapons in a number of states.

“[Biden is] going to go, clearly, on Sunday to offer his comfort, to grieve with the family and the community,” the recently appointed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a conference on Thursday. “But at the same time, he is going to call on Congress to take action because it’s been too long. And now is the time to act.”