Edited By: Fern Sidman
Responding to weekend mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, President Trump is vowing “to act with urgent resolve,” explicitly condemning white supremacy and calling for strong background checks for gun purchases.
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 which lone gunmen killed a total of at least 31 people, according to a VOA report.
“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.”
VOA reported that 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 nation’s chief executive 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, according to a VOA report.
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.”
According to the VOA report, 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 illegal 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 Constitution, which guarantees its citizenry 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, according to a VOA report. “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, as was reported by VOA.
“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.”
In the border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart store, killing at least 22 people and wounding 26, according to the VOA report. 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 Allen, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas area which is located hundreds of miles away from El Paso.
VOA reported that 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.
INN reported that Richard Biehl, the Chief of Police in Dayton, Ohio, said that Connor Betts, the 24-year-old responsible for the shooting overnight Saturday in the city’s entertainment district, wore a bulletproof vest, mask and hearing protection.
Betts carried at least 100 rounds as he opened fire, said Biehl, according to an AP report.
The shooter killed his sister and eight others in less than 30 seconds before police fatally shot him, he added.
Biehl said he could not yet answer why Betts carried out the shooting.
He added the .223-caliber rifle Betts used was ordered online from Texas and transferred to Betts at a firearms dealer in the area, according to the INN report.
Officials say 31 more people were wounded in the shooting attack, which began a little past 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning either by gunfire or as they fled.
Thus far, in 2019 there have been seven mass shootings in the United States. In Sebring, Florida on January 23rd of this year, five people were killed, in State College, PA on January 24th, three people were killed, in Aurora, Illinois on February 15th, five people were killed, on May 31st in Virginia Beach, VA, 12 people were killed, and in Gilroy, CA on July 28th, three people were killed.
In 2018, 80 people were killed and 66 were wounded in mass shootings in the US and in 2017, 117 people lost their lives to gun violence. In 2016, 71 people were killed in mass shootings.
On October 27, 2018, 11 Jews lost their lives to gun violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the aftermath of the most heinous anti-Semitic attack on US soil, a plethora of donations to Jewish organizations came flowing in for the purpose of providing enhanced security for Jewish institutions all across the country.
In an interview with the Jewish Voice subsequent to the Pittsburgh massacre, Yonatan Stern, the director of the Cherev Gidon firearms training academy in Pennsylvania said, “Every person has the basic right to self-defense. This does not depend upon geographic location or any other circumstances. Each person has an obligation to learn how to defend themselves and their families. The media attention generated by this tragedy has put my training school in the spotlight, and has caused many Jews to flock to my courses to get them prepared to defend themselves and their communities. I am currently overwhelmed with demand for these courses at a level which I am simply not able to supply. This is at the end of the day a very good thing, as apparently many people have woken up, but it saddens me that it has come under these terrible circumstances.”
Jewish schools, synagogues and community centers have now significantly upgraded their security systems.
On April 3rd of this year, the JTA reported that the New York State Legislature announced an additional $25 million to fund security for protect nonpublic schools, day cares and cultural museums at risk of hate crimes.
For the first time, summer camps also will receive the security grant allocations.
JTA reported that the $25 million is on top of the $15 million in security allocations already made for such institutions this year, funding lobbied for by Teach NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union, which worked with coalition partners including Agudath Israel of America, the New York State Catholic Conference and the UJA-Federation of New York to create the original program.
The Orthodox Union, through its state advocacy operation Teach Coalition, has worked for the security funding on the national, state and city levels, and also recently hired full-time staff to provide direct assistance to schools and synagogues in their efforts to apply for state and federal grant funding.