LOS ANGELES -- Joe Biden, his voice raised, raged at the gun lobby, congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump as he spoke about the deadly school shooting that took place hours earlier Thursday in Santa Clarita.
"You parents and grandparents, you send off children -- 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old -- and the first thing they learn is how to duck and cover," the former vice president said.
"We're now making sure that we provide children the ability to avoid being shot in school," he said, referring to campuses being designed with hiding places. "What does that say about our soul? ... I'm so tired about people talking about your prayers. Damn it, we have to protect these kids. We have to do it now."
Biden started his afternoon speech in downtown Los Angeles with anger over the shooting at Saugus High School, about 40 miles northwest of the downtown campaign gathering. Two students were killed in the attack and three others were injured. The shooter, who turned 16 on Thursday, was also wounded by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, authorities said.
Biden, a former longtime senator from Delaware, said he had previously taken on the gun lobby successfully, adding that his legislative accomplishments set him apart from the other 2020 candidates. "I'm the only one running who's ever passed anything really big," he said.
The rally at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College was Biden's first in California since he joined the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in April.
He previously made eight fundraising trips to California since entering the race in late April, visiting at least once a month. He has headlined 21 fundraisers in the state, raising money at the homes of Hollywood executives, Silicon Valley tech leaders and other affluent Democrats. Since joining the race, Biden has raised at least $4.7 million from Californians, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures in October of donors who have contributed at least $200.
After the rally Thursday, Biden was headed to two fundraisers, in Pacific Palisades and West L.A.
Biden skipped two major Democratic gatherings in the state this year and is not attending a state party convention on Saturday that is drawing nearly a dozen of his rivals and 5,000 voters. His decision not to participate in these events is drawing the ire of some Democrats in the state, which moved its presidential primary up to March 3 in hopes of getting more political attention.
State party Chairman Rusty Hicks criticized Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren for not attending Saturday's convention. "I respect your work/candidacy, BUT ... you should reconsider your misguided decision to publicly snub California's Democrats & Latino Voters across the nation," he wrote on Facebook.