President Joe Biden salutes Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings,...

President Joe Biden salutes Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings, as he arrives on Air Force One at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. Biden is meeting with the families of law enforcement officers shot to death on the job. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Joe Biden said Thursday he was praying for loved ones and all those left behind after he met privately with the families of law enforcement officers shot to death on the job. The visit came just a week after he sat down with the grieving relatives of two cops killed in upstate New York.

“The entire nation is grieving with these families," he said from his second stop of the day in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was announcing new measures to cut lead pipes from the water supply.

Biden detoured to Charlotte for the visit that took place with little fanfare behind closed doors, as the White House wanted Biden to be seen as respecting the privacy of grieving families and avoiding the appearance of using their grief for political purposes. He also met with officers wounded during the shooting, and wished them a fast recovery.

The president took a short motorcade across the airport to the North Carolina Air National Guard base to meet the group, which included elected officials. The location was an alternative to traveling into the city and was chosen as the least taxing one for local law enforcement officers who are still reeling from the deaths but who would have a hand in securing the president's trip.

“The men and women of law enforcement, you represent the best of us,” he said from the podium at the second stop.

Once again, Biden was seeking to be an empathetic leader for a community reeling from gun violence, while also calling for stricter rules around firearms and more money for law enforcement on the front lines.

Four officers were killed this week in North Carolina, when a wanted man opened fire on a joint agency task force that had come to arrest him on a warrant for possession of a firearm as an ex-felon, and fleeing to elude capture. They were: Sam Poloche and William Elliott of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Joshua Eyer; and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks.

President Joe Biden waves as he walks to board Air...

President Joe Biden waves as he walks to board Air Force One, Thursday, May 2, 2024, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Biden is going to North Carolina. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

Four other officers were wounded in the gunfire; the suspect was killed. An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 40-caliber handgun and ammunition were found at the scene.

An AR-15 is among the weapons most often used in mass shootings, and it's the type of gun Biden is talking about when he says the U.S. should ban “ assault weapons.” Congress passed the most comprehensive gun control legislation in decades in 2022, after a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. But it didn't go far enough, Biden often says.

And as he campaigns for the 2024 election, Biden has made curbing gun violence a major campaign platform, elusive to Democrats even during the Obama era, as he fends off attacks from Republican challenger Donald Trump that he is soft on crime and anti-police.

“We have to get them the resources they need to do their job,” Biden said of law enforcement. “And keep the weapons of war" out of the wrong hands.

President Joe Biden greets Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings,...

President Joe Biden greets Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings, as he arrives on Air Force One at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. Biden is meeting with the families of law enforcement officers shot to death on the job. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

The violence came just about two weeks after another fatal shooting of law enforcement officers in Syracuse, New York; Lieutenant Michael Hoosock and Officer Michael Jensen were killed while looking for a driver who fled a traffic stop. After his speech, Biden met relatives of both of the officers’ families.

Biden had already been scheduled to come to Syracuse to celebrate Micron Technology’s plans to build a campus of computer chip factories, but the local police union said officers were still coming to terms with the deaths and weren’t happy with the president’s trip and had hoped he would delay.

On Thursday from Wilmington, Biden announced his administration was providing states with an additional $3 billion to replace lead pipes across the country, building on $5.8 billion for water infrastructure projects around the country announced in February.

“There’s no safe level of lead exposure," he said. “None. The only way forward is to replace every lead service line that connects clean water.”

Money for the pipe replacement comes from one of the administration’s key legislative victories, the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed in 2021. The infrastructure law includes over $50 billion to upgrade America’s water infrastructure.

The new round of funding will help pay for projects nationwide as Biden seeks to replace all lead pipes in the country.

“We’re going to get it done,” he said.

EPA estimates that North Carolina has 370,000 lead pipes, and $76 million will go to replace them statewide. Biden also will meet with faculty and students at a Wilmington school that replaced a water fountain with high levels of lead with money from the law.

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