My fellow Americans, I speak to you tonight with a heavy heart. Earlier this week, an eighteen-year-old wielding an AR-15 opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing nineteen students and two teachers. I ask all of you to keep them and their families in your prayers. I’ll be doing the same.

But I’m tired of giving speeches like this, and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing them. The pattern is familiar by now. A gunman opens fire in a school or a grocery store or a movie theater or a church. We...

My fellow Americans, I speak to you tonight with a heavy heart. Earlier this week, an eighteen-year-old wielding an AR-15 opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing nineteen students and two teachers. I ask all of you to keep them and their families in your prayers. I’ll be doing the same.

But I’m tired of giving speeches like this, and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing them. The pattern is familiar by now. A gunman opens fire in a school or a grocery store or a movie theater or a church. We offer our thoughts and prayers. We spend a few news cycles arguing about gun control and mental health and school security. And then we all move on. Rinse and repeat. I saw a recent poll that said 44 percent of Republicans now agree with the statement that Americans “just have to accept” regular mass shootings as the new normal.

Well, I don’t accept that. But I also don’t have an easy solution for you.

The sad truth is that we live in what can accurately be described as a culture of death, a culture in which we fail so often to love and protect our children. And all too often, that culture of death has been the direct result of government policy.

We encourage women to abort their babies so they can pursue careers that will boost our GDP. We fail to provide paid family leave. We use the threat of climate change to scare couples into childlessness. We’ve made it virtually impossible to raise a family on a single income. We let radical ideologues indoctrinate our kids into chemically castrating and surgically mutilating their developing bodies. We allowed the expanded Child Tax Credit, which lifted millions of children out of poverty, to expire. And we continue to shrug our shoulders as they suffer periodic massacres in their classrooms.

This culture is systematically destroying the minds and souls of teenagers. Smartphones are driving them to suicide at record rates. In fact, it would probably be better for these kids if they threw out the iPhones and started smoking a pack a day. Widespread pornography is distorting their view of reality and making it more difficult for them to form healthy, stable relationships. And an epidemic of loneliness has forced them to seek community online, often in extremist forums. These cultural and political failures have turned our kids not only into victims but into victimizers. In both Uvalde and Buffalo, the shooter was only eighteen years old.

This isn’t just about guns. Mass shootings like these were virtually unknown until the second half of the 20th century, and school shootings have become widespread only in the last twenty-five years. The problem isn’t only that guns have gotten deadlier. Nineteenth-century schoolchildren weren’t murdering their classmates with Colt Peacemakers. The problem is cultural, spiritual.

But with all that said, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. The United States has, by far, the most heavily armed citizenry in the world. We have just 5 percent of the world population but account for more than 40 percent of civilian gun ownership. Other countries have many of the same problems I just outlined, but shootings like these don’t happen anywhere else at the rate they happen here.

I understand why many of my fellow Americans are hesitant to accept new gun control measures. They’re worried that government infringement on their rights is a ratchet that only goes in one direction. They don’t want to be punished for the misdeeds of a few bad actors. They feel strongly that gun ownership is the mark of a free citizen living in a free republic. These are all perfectly valid objections.

I won’t insult the American people by calling for anything so radical as widespread gun confiscation. Such a policy would be unconstitutional, but it would also constitute an admission that we live not in a virtuous republic, but in an asylum of 300 million people who must be soothed and straitjacketed by bureaucratic orderlies.

But no right is unlimited. You can’t buy a nuclear bomb or a Javelin missile. And it’s time to expand that category to include the AR-15 and similar weapons. I’m calling on Congress to pass a ten-year ban on the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons and to raise the legal purchasing age from 18 to 21.

I’m also calling for universal background checks and for legislation encouraging states to pass “red flag” laws, which would allow law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from people whose words or actions suggest they might pose a threat to themselves or others. In order to be eligible for these federal grants, states will have to show that their “red flag” laws include robust protections to shield peace-loving gun owners against frivolous or malicious reports.

I have no illusions that any of these measures will end mass shootings in America. We’ll still be a society awash in firearms and suffering from a deep spiritual sickness. The shooter who attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 murdered his mother, stole her AR-15, and used it to kill twenty-six people. None of the laws I’m proposing would have prevented that. But if these commonsense restrictions could prevent even one massacre like the one we saw in Uvalde, then we owe it to ourselves to try.

And finally, I’ve asked Governor Greg Abbott to launch a full investigation into the Uvalde Police Department and all other law enforcement agencies that played a role in the response to this atrocity. I’ve also instructed the Department of Justice to give Governor Abbott whatever he needs.

We grow up learning that the police are there for our protection. We entrust them with great power and respect, and in return, we expect them to be willing to lay down their lives to save ours. This time, they weren’t. Armed police officers waited in a hallway while a deranged killer fired round after round into the bodies of helpless elementary schoolers. Some of these officers even used force to prevent parents from entering the school to rescue their own children.

I don’t believe in defunding the police, but I also don’t believe in making excuses for them when they fail to do their jobs. If a single child who died that day died because of the cowardice or incompetence of law enforcement, then rest assured, there will be consequences.

These shootings are not normal, and if we want to retain our hard-won freedoms, we’re going to need to figure out why they’re happening and how to stop them. Today, I’ve outlined some first steps toward that goal, but we’ll never reach it by relying on Washington to solve all our problems or by focusing narrowly on guns and ignoring the factors that lead disturbed individuals to turn them on innocent people. I’ll do what I can from this office, even as I urge you to do what you can in your own families and communities.

Let’s put an end to this. Let’s show the world that freedom and humanity can coexist.