‘Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks…’
(Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times) WASHINGTON — In a solemn address from the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump condemned the gunmen who carried out two deadly mass shootings over the weekend and the white nationalism that motivated one of them — but stopped short of calling for stricter gun laws to prevent future attacks.
“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack against out nation and a crime against all of humanity,” Trump said. “Hate has no place in America. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacism.”
The president vowed to act “with urgent resolve” to end the uniquely American epidemic of mass shootings, highlighting the internet, violent video games and mental health issues as contributing factors.
But Trump pointedly did not endorse rising calls for stricter laws to keep guns out of the hands of likely killers. He instead blamed the violence on the individual shooters, describing one as “wicked” and the other as a “twisted monster.”
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said.
Hours earlier, Trump had suggested on Twitter that he could support “strong background checks,” if Congress should enact them, but he did not repeat that pledge in his comments.
“Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform,” he tweeted. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”
Trump similarly endorsed gun law reforms including expanded background checks following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., but quickly reversed himself after meeting with the National Rifle Association.
Two Democratic bills that would expand background checks passed the House in February with scant Republican support, and neither has been taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate, which is now on a six week recess.
Trump, for his part, has threatened to veto the bills should they ever get to his desk, calling them a breach of Second Amendment rights.
The first bill would expand background checks on all gun sales and most gun transfers, including private transfers. The other would give the federal government additional time to complete a background check on someone trying to buy a gun from a licensed dealer before the sale can be finalized.
Trump, who offered several ideas aside from tightening the nation’s gun laws, said he would direct the Department of Justice to work more closely with local law enforcement to disrupt potential shooters.
He also called for more so-called red flag laws, which enable police or family members to petition a state court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who may present a danger to others or themselves.
The president also suggested that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders should receive the death penalty and be executed quickly.
Democrats, including several 2020 candidates, have blamed Trump for inciting violence against immigrants with racist language, which was echoed by the shooter who killed 20 people in El Paso on Saturday.
Robert Francis O’Rourke (“Beto”), the former El Paso congressman who is now seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, slammed Trump for suggesting that gun reform would have to be tied to more restrictive immigration policies.
“Only a racist, driven by fear, could witness what took place this weekend — and instead of standing up to hatred, side with a mass murderer’s call to make our country more white,” O’Rourke tweeted . “We are so much better than this president.”
Trump instead accused the media of deepening divisions in the United States.
“The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country. Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!,” he tweeted.
He may travel this week to El Paso and Dayton, although Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Democrat who represents El Paso, said Monday that, in her view, Trump is not welcome in her community.
“Words have consequences,” she said in a TV interview. “The president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated.”
Regarding a possible Trump visit this week, she added, “I hope that he has the self-awareness to understand that we are in pain and we are in mourning. “I would ask his staff to consider the fact that his words and his actions have played a role in this.”
©2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.