Trump on mass shootings: ‘Hate has no place in our country’
President Trump on Sunday declared that “hate has no place in our country” after a pair of back-to-back mass shootings over the weekend rocked the nation.
“Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it,” Trump told reporters at Morristown Airport before departing for the White House after spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf resort.
Trump’s three-minute remarks were the first time he spoke publicly about the deadly shootings. He ignored shouted questions about whether the El Paso shooter’s anti-immigrant manifesto shared similarities with his rhetoric and said the shootings are part of “a mental illness problem.”
The president said his White House has “done much more than most administrations” when it comes to addressing gun violence but conceded that “perhaps more has to be done.”
He said he would deliver a lengthier statement at 10 a.m. Monday. He did not answer further questions about the shooting roughly an hour later upon arriving at the White House.
A gunman killed 20 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that is being investigated as a hate crime. Police believe the suspected shooter posted a manifesto attacking immigrants and warning of a “Hispanic invasion” of the U.S.
Less than 24 hours later, at least nine people were killed and more than two dozen others were injured in a shooting spree in Dayton, Ohio. The two shootings are not believed to be linked.
Trump praised the actions of police in El Paso and Dayton, saying, “It would have been unbelievable. It is horrible, but it would have been so much worse.”
Officers in Dayton arrived at the scene of the shooting within a minute and shot dead the suspected gunman, who was armed with a powerful rifle and high-capacity magazines.
The president said he had spoken to Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray, the governors of Ohio and Texas, and members of Congress.
“We have to get it stopped,” he said. “This has been going on for years, for years and years in our country.”
Congressional Democrats, 2020 presidential candidates and others have drawn comparisons between the motives of the El Paso shooter and Trump’s immigration rhetoric and suggested he helped fuel the environment that led to the attack.
“Let’s be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open, avowed racist and encouraging more racism in this country,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), whose hometown is El Paso, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Authorities said the suspected Texas gunman drove eight hours from near Dallas to El Paso, which is across the border from Mexico and is roughly 80 percent Latino.
The president has spoken about an “invasion” of migrants at the U.S. southern border, and he recently told four minority Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their home countries even though all four are Americans citizens. Trump’s comments about the lawmakers have been widely condemned as racist, but he has denied the accusation.
“I blame the people who pull the trigger,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” when asked who is to blame. “This was a sick person. You can go and read the things that the person wrote. … He’s felt this way for a long time.”
Trump and Republicans have also come under fire for opposing new gun control laws in response to mass shootings. GOP lawmakers have argued that most measures, such as enhanced background checks and a ban on assault weapons, would not stop most mass shootings.
The Trump administration did ban bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire much more rapidly. The move was a response to the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, where the suspected shooter used one of the devices to kill nearly 60 people.
Updated: 6:01 p.m.