The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Trump vows action in shootings aftermath

He condemns weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio as “barbaric” attacks and crimes “against all humanity.”

- By Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire

WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump on Monday condemned weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio as barbaric crimes “against all humanity” and called for bipartisan cooperatio­n to respond to an epidemic of gun violence. He blamed mental illness and video games but made no mention of more limits on sales of firearms.

Trump said he wanted legislatio­n providing “strong background checks” for gun users, though he has reneged on previous promises after mass attacks. He offered few details.

“We vow to act with urgent resolve,” Trump said, speaking from the White House about shootings that left 31 dead as the count rose on Monday. His scripted remarks came after two days of muted response to the shootings, and included a solitary denunciati­on of white supremacy, which he has been reluctant to criticize.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said, adding that he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America,” he said.

Trump’s attempt at unifying the nation, without renouncing his own divisive language about immigrants and political opponents, followed his pattern in moments of national tragedy. The president’s appeals to the nation’s better angels have proved fleeting.

His path to the White House was built on the politics of division, and aides say he views his road to reelection once again on sowing discord and unease about cultural, economic and demographi­c changes.

Democrats, meanwhile, reacted viscerally to Trump’s handling of the shootings, angrily renewing their calls for his defeat.

Trump suggested earlier Monday on Twitter that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigratio­n system. But he didn’t say how or why he was connecting the issues. Both shooting suspects were U.S. citizens, and federal officials are investigat­ing anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive for the El Paso, Texas, massacre.

He did not elaborate on that proposal during his 10-minute address from the Diplomatic Reception Room. But Trump has frequently sought to tie his immigratio­n priorities — a border wall and transformi­ng the legal immigratio­n system to one that prioritize­s merit over familial ties — to legislatio­n around which he perceives momentum to be building.

Trump’s proposed responses attempt to shift blame away from the heated rhetoric coming from the White House and his own campaign rallies and mostly leave it to Congress, which is on recess, to sort out his solutions.

He signaled he would oppose large-scale gun control efforts pushed by Democrats, saying, “hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

Trump called for law enforcemen­t and social media companies to do more to combat extremism and spot warning signs of violence online. He also called for a reduction in the “glorificat­ion” of violence in American culture, laws to make it easier to commit those with mental illness and “red flag laws” to separate such individual­s from firearms.

He directed the Department of Justice to seek and prioritize the enforcemen­t of the death penalty in cases of hate crimes and mass shootings.

Congress has proven unable to pass substantia­l gun violence legislatio­n this session, in large part because of resistance from Republican­s, particular­ly in the GOP-controlled Senate.

And Trump himself has reneged on previous pledges to strengthen gun laws.

After other mass shootings he called for strengthen­ing the federal background check system, and in 2018 he signed legislatio­n to increase federal agency data sharing. But he has resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.

In February, the House approved bipartisan legislatio­n to require federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers and legislatio­n to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearm purchases. The White House threatened a presidenti­al veto if those measures passed Congress.

At a February meeting with survivors and family members of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting in which 17 people died, Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.”

Trump claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results in quelling gun violence. But he later retreated, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump should push the GOP-controlled Senate to take up the House’s background check bills.

“It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislatio­n,” they said in a joint statement. “When he can’t mention guns while talking about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA.”

With his Monday proposals, Trump is providing a response to the shootings with ideas that many Republican­s in Congress can embrace — without confrontin­g the gun lobby and tackling the problems with firearm accessibil­ity that many view as a driver of gun violence.

Trump ally Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, has raised concerns about violence in video games, while another Trump confidant, Sen. Lindsey Graham, tweeted his support over the weekend for his own red flag mental health bill. At the same time, many Democrats oppose the death penalty.

In the El Paso attack, investigat­ors are focusing on whether it was a hate crime after the emergence of an anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested.

On Twitter Monday, Trump seemed to deflect from scrutiny over the writings, which had language mirroring some of his own. As Democrats have called on Trump to tone down his rhetoric, Trump blamed the news media for the nation’s woes.

“Fake News has contribute­d greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years,” he claimed.

As Trump weighs trips to the affected communitie­s — the Federal Aviation Administra­tion advised pilots of a presidenti­al visit Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio — some local lawmakers signaled opposition to his presence.

In recent weeks, the president has issued critical tweets about four women of color who serve in Congress, and in rallies has spoken of an “invasion” at the southern border. He also has been criticized for offering a false equivalenc­y when discussing racial violence, notably when he said there were “very fine people on both sides,” after a white supremacis­t rally in Charlottes­ville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of an anti-racism demonstrat­or.

During his remarks on Monday, Trump at one point erroneousl­y stated that the Ohio shooting had taken place in Toledo, not Dayton. It followed an error made by former Vice President Joe Biden Sunday evening, when he described shootings in “Houston” and “Michigan” before correcting himself.

On gun control, a majority of Americans have consistent­ly said they support stronger laws, but proposals have stalled repeatedly in Congress, a marked contrast to some countries that have acted swiftly after mass shootings.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday in Washington.
EVAN VUCCI — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday in Washington.

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