US President Donald Trump condemned “bigotry and hatred” following last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people, adding that all Americans must denounce “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy”.
“These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” Trump said in scripted remarks at the White House. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
He blamed video games and mental illness for violence but made no mention of more limits on the sales of actual firearms.
The appearance, in which he mistakenly referred to Toledo instead of Dayton, came after two days of muted response to the shootings and included a solitary denunciation of white supremacy, a subject he has been reluctant to criticize.
Trump said he had asked social media giants to develop tools that could detect people planning a mass shooting. He accused the internet and social media of “helping to radicalise people” and “spur heinous crimes”.
The president also said that “those judged as a risk to public safety should not be given access to guns”. To stop this, Trump said he would back “red flag” laws — which allows the temporary removal of firearms from a person — for gun owners who could present a risk to others.
He also said that he would propose legislation to ensure that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty.
However, he offered few specific solutions to address violence and signalled he would oppose large-scale gun control efforts pushed by Democrats, saying, “hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
While not blaming them directly, he alluded to the media as having a role in the tragedies, saying it “has contributed greatly to the anger and rage”.
‘Reject language of hatred and fear’
In a statement about the mass shootings, former President Barack Obama asked Americans to reject the language of hatred, fear, and intolerance from any of their leaders.
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments,” Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter.
A gunman opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, killing 20 people. Authorities said the shooting appeared to be motivated by racial hatred. Thirteen hours later, another gunman killed nine people in downtown Dayton, Ohio. Dozens were wounded in both attacks.
Trump did not directly address accusations by critics about his anti-immigrant and racially-charged comments but escalated his accusations of “fake news” and media bias in a series of early morning tweets.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump appealed to both political parties and said victims should not “die in vain”. He called on lawmakers to pass legislation requiring stricter screenings for gun buyers.
“Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” Trump wrote.
Congress is on summer recess, but Trump could invoke his constitutional power to convene it.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the shootings, where Mexican nationals were among the casualties, should lead to “reflections” about “indiscriminate” arms sales.
“We are very respectful of what other governments decide, but we think that these unfortunate events, which occurred in the U.S., should lead to reflection, analysis and the decision to control the indiscriminate sale of weapons,” Lopez Obrador said.
Over the weekend, Trump tried to assure Americans he was dealing with the problem and defended his administration in light of criticism following the latest in a string of mass shootings.
“We have done much more than most administrations,” he said, without elaboration. “We have done actually a lot. But perhaps more has to be done.”