Trump on El Paso shooting: We must condemn white supremacy

President Trump on Monday called on the nation to condemn white supremacy following last weekend’s back-to-back mass shootings and threw his support behind new measures focused on mental illness, rather than stricter gun laws.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn bigotry, hatred and white supremacy,” Trump said in a nationally televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.” 

{mosads}Trump was delivering his first in-depth remarks on the pair of shootings that left 30 dead and dozens more wounded in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. He denounced the shootings as “barbaric slaughters” and condemned the El Paso shooter as “consumed with racist hate.”

The suspected El Paso shooter, who killed 20 people and wounded dozens more when he opened fire at a Walmart, allegedly wrote a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto that was published just before the attack that warned of a Latino “invasion.” Federal authorities are considering charging him with hate crimes.

Trump also said federal law enforcement agencies would receive “whatever they need” in order to crack down on white nationalists and domestic terrorism.

Just hours after calling for bipartisan action on legislation providing “strong background checks,” Trump made no mention of the proposal during his 10-minute address to the nation in which he decried the “mentally ill monsters” who carry out mass shootings as well as violent video games that he blamed for fueling animus in the U.S.

He named several possible steps, such as a “red-flag” law that would make it easier for law enforcement to identify mentally ill people who should be banned from purchasing guns. Trump also said people who commit deadly hate crime should be punished with the death penalty in a “quick and decisive” way. 

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger — not the gun,” the president said in the Diplomatic Room of the White House.

Trump said the problem lies with the nation’s moral fabric, which he said has been damaged by “gruesome and grisly video games” that make it easy for “troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”

The president suggested earlier Monday that a background-check bill could be paired with his long-stalled effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, but did not provide further details or explain why the issues should be connected. 

Two days after the shooting in El Paso, Texas, the president for the first time addressed the suspected gunman’s alleged anti-immigrant bias.

He previously backed away for a call for stronger background checks after last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla. 

Democratic presidential candidates, lawmakers and others have argued Trump’s rhetoric has contributed to rising tensions and violence in the country. On Monday, the field of 2020 contenders panned Trump’s speech, lamenting his focus on mental illness and his failure to address the proliferation of high-powered guns.

“The president is weak. And wrong,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted. “White supremacy is not a mental illness, and guns are a tool that white supremacists use to fulfill their hate.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) slammed Trump blaming mental illness for gun violence as a “dodge,” suggesting the larger issue is the access to high-powered weapons.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) on Sunday night blasted Trump’s response to the shootings as an “absolute freaking joke.” On Monday, the congressman expressed disbelief after the president mistakenly referred to shooting victims in “Toledo” rather than Dayton.

“Toledo. Fck me,” Ryan tweeted.

The suspected El Paso shooter’s language closely mirrored some of Trump’s statements about immigrants, but the accused gunman said he held his beliefs before the president took office. 

Trump has repeatedly called the influx of migrants from Central America an “invasion.” He has also labeled immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. as “thugs” who bring crime and disease and taken drastic measures, including separating children from their adult guardians, in order to try and stem the flow of migration. 

“How do you stop these people? You can’t,” Trump said in May at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla. 

An audience member shouted out “shoot them,” promoting cheers from the crowd and a smile from Trump. 

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump responded. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Trump on Monday called on Congress to set aside “destructive partisanship” and “find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.”

With Democrats broadly calling for stricter gun laws, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch Trump ally, said he would support the passing the “red flag” laws the president mentioned on Monday into law.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) backed Graham’s suggestion and further proposed the Senate take up legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales.

But the odds of passage are unclear, as Congress has taken limited action on gun violence in the wake of repeated mass shootings.

Trump moved late last year to ban bump stocks after one was used to kill 58 people and injured hundreds of others at a music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017. The devices allow semi-automatic weapons to fire much more rapidly.

Lawmakers eventually passed improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, but the White House recommended “hardening” schools with increased security rather than proposing new gun laws.

—This report was updated at 12:00 p.m.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Cory Booker Dayton Donald Trump El Paso Joe Manchin Lindsey Graham Mass shootings Pat Toomey Tim Ryan White House

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