(The Hill) – President Biden on Monday called the latest school shooting, which left at least three children dead in Nashville, “sick” and lamented that such a tragedy was “a family’s worst nightmare.”

“We have to do more to stop gun violence. It’s ripping our communities apart. It’s ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons,” Biden said in remarks at the start of a women’s business summit.

At least three children and three staff members were killed after a shooting at a private school in Nashville that serves preschool through 6th grade, authorities said. A police spokesperson identified the shooter as a 28-year-old assailant carrying two assault-style rifles and a handgun. 

Biden was briefed on the shooting, and the White House has been in touch with the Department of Justice and local officials.

The president called the school shooting “sick,” “heartbreaking” and “a family’s worst nightmare.”

Noting the weapons the assailant was said to be carrying, Biden reiterated his call for Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

“It’s about time that we begin to make some more progress,” Biden said, adding that his administration would continue to monitor the situation as more details emerge.

First lady Jill Biden, who teaches at a Northern Virginia community college, also addressed the shooting at the top of remarks earlier in the day to a conference of city leaders.

“I am truly without words. Our children deserve better. We stand, all of us, we stand with Nashville in prayer,” the first lady said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre earlier Monday pointed to the passage of a bipartisan gun law last year and executive orders issued by Biden seeking to crack down on gun trafficking and to enhance background checks as examples of how the administration has sought to address the scourge of gun violence.

“How many more children have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress step up and act to pass the assault weapons ban. to close loopholes in our background checks, or to require the safe storage of guns?” Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre did not say whether the White House has had any recent conversations with Republicans on the issue, but she said Biden would remain optimistic that the government can take action to counter the cycle of mass shootings.

In almost every instance of mass shootings that have occurred during his first two years as president, Biden has called on Congress to enact a ban on assault weapons that he helped author while he was a senator in the 1990s. 

The White House has pointed to the passage of a bipartisan gun law last year and executive orders issued by Biden seeking to crack down on gun trafficking and to enhance background checks. 

Biden signed the background check order earlier this month during a visit to Monterey Park in California, where a gunman last year killed 11 people during Lunar New Year celebrations.

But administration officials and some advocates have acknowledged there is a limit to how much Biden can do unilaterally, shifting the focus to Congress to enact tougher gun laws.

Any significant reforms are unlikely to pass during the current session, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House and Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate.