Responding to weekend mass shootings in the United States, President Trump is vowing “to act with urgent resolve,” explicitly condemning white supremacy and calling for strong background checks for gun purchases.
By: Steve Herman
Trump, however, is not advocating major gun control legislation, disappointing advocates who favor such measures.
Trump made remarks at the White House on Monday, after a pair of mass shootings 13 hours apart in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in which lone gunmen killed a total of at least 31 people.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” said Trump, noting hatred expressed in a “manifesto” attributed to the young white man being held as the suspect for the early Sunday shooting at a Walmart store in the Texas city on the Mexican border. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
Trump also said, “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
Plans are being made for a visit by the president later in the week to both El Paso and Dayton. A trip he had planned to take Tuesday to Florida has been postponed.
In his early Monday remarks, Trump also focused on mental illness, violence in the media and in video games, warning of “the perils of the internet and social media.”
The U.S. president advocated red flag laws to try to identify those would could potentially commit such mass violence and prevent them from getting their hands on weapons to carry out such crimes.
Trump termed the mass shootings (there have been about 250 in the United States so far this year) “barbaric slaughter” that “are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation and a crime against all of humanity.”
Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence at his side, spoke for just under 10 minutes and did not respond to questions from a group of reporters in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.
Earlier in the day on Twitter, Trump suggested linking gun legislation to immigration reform.
Congress for years has been unable to reach agreement on immigration reforms, which Trump has pushed to thwart migrants, mostly from Central America, from crossing the southern U.S. border with Mexico. On the issue of gun violence, lawmakers only sporadically have enacted gun policy changes in the face of opposition from gun advocates who draw their authority from the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees Americans the right to own a weapon.
“It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation. When he can’t mention guns while talking about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA (National Rifle Association),” said the two top Democratic Party lawmakers in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement. “The public must weigh in and demand passage of this legislation for the safety of our children.”
In a statement released immediately after Trump’s speech, former member of Congress Gabby Giffords said the president’s words alone without action will not save lives.
“Today is not the first time this President has stood before the nation in the wake of a mass shooting promising to make the safety of our children and communities a top priority, but so far those promises have all been empty. They’ve been designed to fill a news cycle, not tackle a cycle of violence,” said Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 in a supermarket parking lot as she met with her Arizona constituents. “Make no mistake, if Donald Trump was truly serious about addressing America’s gun violence crisis he would demand that the Senate return from their August Recess today and send the background checks bill passed by the House 159 days ago to his desk immediately.”
Authorities say that in the border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart store, killing at least 22 people and wounding 26. They are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and seeking to confirm that the suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who has been jailed, was the author of an online posting predicting a shooting spree intended to target Hispanics. The man lived in the Dallas area, hundreds of kilometers away from El Paso.
Trump’s Democratic opponents, including several seeking their party’s nomination to run against him in the 2020 election, have blamed his oft-repeated anti-immigration rhetoric as fostering the hate that contributed to the El Paso mass killing. (VOA News)
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