"Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun," said Trump during a presidential address on Monday.
Rabat – Over the weekend, the US felt the shockwaves from two mass shootings within 24 hours, resulting in 31 deaths.
On Saturday, August 3, twenty people were killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and nine victims were shot dead in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Sunday, August 4.
The perpetrator of the El Paso shooting posted a manifesto online entitled “The Inconvenient Truth,” warning against the supposed dangers of mass immigration. The manifesto also warned that Hispanics will eventually take over the economy and government.
As for Dayton, the 24-year-old gunman killed his sister and eight others in an attack that lasted only 30 seconds in a popular nightlife district of the city. His motive for the attack remains unclear.
The two shootings have rocked the nation and resurged debates over the cause of gun violence in the US and whether gun laws should be tightened or not.
Trumps blames “fake news” and video games
The day after the Ohio shooting, on Monday, August 5, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to both give his condolences to the victims and called for stronger background checks, which he said should be “desperately needed immigration reform.”
“We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events,” he said.
In the same series of tweets, he pointed the finger at the media and “fake news” for causing the build-up of “anger and rage” in the country.
However, Trump’s statements on the shootings and surrounding issues saw a change in direction when he delivered a national address at the White House just hours after the tweets.
During the address, he cited mental illness as one of the primary factors behind mass shootings. “Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun,” said Trump.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.
As well as calling for reforms to mental health laws, he expressed support for the death penalty for those who commit mass murder. He said he had directed the justice department to propose legislation to ensure those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty.
The US president also criticized “the perils of the internet and social media” and “gruesome and grisly” video games for promoting violence in society.
“It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence,” he said. “We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”
No mention of gun legislation or rhetoric against illegal immigration
As well as drawing criticism for incorrectly naming the Ohio city that fell victim to one of the mass shootings as Toledo instead of Dayton, Trump faced criticism, particularly from the Democrats, for failing to mention possible changes to gun 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 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement.
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democratic candidate for president, agreed with Pelosi and Schumer in an MSNBC interview: “Republicans need to, quite frankly, get their shit together and stop pandering to the NRA [National Rifle Association] because people are getting killed.”
Lily Adams, the communications director of Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, tweeted: “He got the city wrong. He got the causes wrong. He got the fixes wrong. He’s completely incapable of rising to the moment.”
He got the city wrong.
He got the causes wrong.
He got the fixes wrong.
He's completely incapable of rising to the moment.
— Lily Adams (@adamslily) August 5, 2019
Trump accused of stoking racism and violence
The president was also criticized for failing to mention the effect his own anti-immigration rhetoric may have on violence in the US, particularly in light of the El Paso shooter’s statements in his manifesto.
“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” said the statement, calling the large Hispanic population of the city a “cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by invasion.”
Democrats a pointing out the manifesto sounds eerily similar to some of Trump’s own statements, who has also referred to large groups of migrants trying to reach the US an “invasion.”
Some Democrats accused Trump of stoking white nationalism and inciting violence by making these comments. “He’s an open avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country,” presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke told CNN.
Another Democrat presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg echoed this statement, tweeting:
“Our president isn’t just failing to confront and disarm these domestic terrorists, he is amplifying and condoning their hate.”
Our president isn't just failing to confront and disarm these domestic terrorists, he is amplifying and condoning their hate. https://t.co/TNNUXccxkW
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) August 4, 2019
A third Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, said Trump’s language “creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists.”
Mr. President: stop your racist, hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 4, 2019
A handful of Republicans chimed in to criticize Trump, with Senator John S. McCollister condemning his own party for “enabling white supremacy.”
The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth.
I of course am not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists nor am I saying that the average Republican is even racist.
— Senator McCollister (@SenMcCollister) August 5, 2019