With the parents of Tyre Nichols sitting in the audience, President Biden discussed their son's death during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, asking lawmakers to "imagine if you lost their child at the hands of the law, imagine having to worry if your son or daughter came home from walking down the street, playing in the park, or just driving a car."
Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died in January after he was beaten by Memphis police officers. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, were guests of first lady Jill Biden. After introducing them, the president said that most of the people in the chamber "have never had to have the talk, the talk that brown and Black parents have had to have with their children. We've never had to tell them if a police officer pulls you over, turn your interior lights on right away, don't reach for your license, keep your hands on the steering wheel. Imagine having to worry like that every single time your kid got in a car."
Biden said that Nichols' mother told him "something good will come of this," and urged lawmakers to pass policing bills and "commit ourselves to the words of Tyre's mom — something good must happen from this."
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Every American wants the same thing, Biden said, including "neighborhoods free of violence, law enforcement that has earned a community's trust. Just as every cop when they pin on that badge in the morning has the right to be able to go home at night, so does everybody else out there. Our children have a right to come home safely. Equal protection under the law is a covenant we have with each other in America."
"I know most cops and their families are good, decent, honorable people," Biden said. "The vast majority, they risk their lives every time they take that shield on, but what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better."
He stressed the importance of giving police officers "real training" and holding them to "higher standards," and said there need to be more first responders and professionals who can "address the growing mental health and substance abuse challenges, more resources to reduce violent crime and gun crime, more community intervention programs, more investment in housing, education, and job training. All this can help prevent violence in the first place."
Police departments that "violate the public trust must be held accountable," Biden said, and he touted the "sweeping gun safety law" that passed after the 2022 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Their work, however, "is not done," Biden said, and after applauding the heroism of Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the gunman in Monterey Park, California, who shot and killed 11 people last month, he called on an assault weapons ban "once and for all."
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