US president Joe Biden mocked walking out of a meeting with Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese after the latter recalled a trip to the US in his younger days and a visit with the National Rifle Association (NRA) more than three decades ago.
Mr Biden pretended to storm out just hours before a teen gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school in Texas’ Uvalde town, in one of the worst mass shootings witnessed by the US in years.
During his discussion with the US president on the sidelines of the Quad summit on Tuesday, Mr Albanese narrated the story about his visit to the US more than 30 years ago as a guest of the state department. He told Mr Biden that he stayed in the US for five weeks.
“You could design a theme [for the programme], and mine was — I wanted to see the interaction of groups with the US government. So I did everything from the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood to the full — the full kit and caboodle across the spectrum,” Mr Albanese said.
As soon as the prime minister mentioned the NRA, however, the president pretended to get up from his chair and walk away. At this point, Mr Albanese burst out into a hearty laugh.
Mr Biden paused during his mock walk-out and told the Australian prime minister: “You’re a brave man.”
“I am,” Mr Albanese replied.
“You’re a brave man,” Mr Biden repeated.
“The Sierra Club and the National Rifle…” Mr Biden then said, before being interrupted by Mr Albanese, who said: “But it was an — an opportunity to see the — the full diversity of the way that the country operates.”
Mr Albanese also noted that “the US State Department was good enough as well to manage to justify a trip to Vegas as well.”
“I’m not quite sure where that fitted in, but it was a — it was a good trip indeed.”
Mr Albanese has grabbed headlines for attending his very first Quad meeting right after getting sworn in as prime minister. Mr Biden also joked he could “fall asleep while you’re here [at the Quad summit], it’s okay. Because I don’t know how you’re doing it.”
Meanwhile, after Mr Biden was briefed about the shooting, he said it was time to “turn this pain into action.”
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he said late Tuesday at the White House.
“Where in God’s name is our backbone, to have the courage to deal with this and stand up to the [gun] lobbies?”
Mr Biden had, as the US vice president, sought support for tougher laws and background checks from the NRA.
“There has got to be some common ground, to not solve every problem but diminish the probability” of future mass shootings, the vice president had said in 2013.
In the US, according to the latest data released by the FBI, school shootings skyrocketed in 2021 compared to the previous year.
There were 61 active shooter incidents last year, up by more than half compared to 2020, the FBI said in a new report.