Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,' says Trump

US president rejects calls for curbs as he blames mass shootings on mental illness and the internet

Donald Trump addresses the media in the White House. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis
Donald Trump addresses the media in the White House. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis

Rozina Sabur

US president Donald Trump denounced white supremacy yesterday as he addressed a nation reeling from two mass shootings that left more than 30 people dead, but blamed mental illness and the internet rather than lax gun control laws.

The US president vowed his administration would "act with urgent resolve" in the aftermath of the weekend tragedies in Texas and Ohio, which he condemned as "two evil attacks".

Mr Trump said there was a need for reforms to mental health laws but was criticised for suggesting "mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun".

He blamed violent video­games, the "dark recesses of the internet" and social media companies, which he said must do more to identify and predict such threats.

"We must recognise that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalised disturbed minds and perform demented acts," Mr Trump said. He focused his attention on the "wicked man" who slaughtered 22 people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday.

The suspect, Patrick Crusius, is believed to have written a lengthy racist manifesto that appeared online shortly before the massacre and claimed the shooting was a response to the "Hispanic invasion of Texas".

In a televised address from the White House, Mr Trump said: "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul."

Mr Trump said he would direct the Department of Justice to draft legislation to ensure that perpetrators of hate crimes and mass murders "face the death penalty" shortly after being convicted.

CCTV footage released yesterday showed police officers arriving with their weapons drawn at the shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Photo: Dayton Police Department/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
CCTV footage released yesterday showed police officers arriving with their weapons drawn at the shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Photo: Dayton Police Department/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Suspect Patrick Crusius. Photo: HO / FBI / AFP
Little Serenity Lara cries during a vigil for the victims of the El Paso shooting. Photo: REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

He also sent his condolences to Mexico for the loss of seven of its citizens in the shooting. It came after the country demanded further protections for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in the US and even threatened legal action over the attack.

Marcelo Ebrard, the country's foreign minister, suggested Mexican authorities could seek to extradite the gunman on a terrorism charge as well as planning legal action against the seller of the assault weapon.

During his address yesterday, Mr Trump called the shooting an act of "domestic terrorism" and said the FBI would devote further resources to preventing such attacks in the future.

Mr Trump outlined a number of possible steps, including "red-flag laws" that would seek to better identify mentally ill people who should be disqualified from purchasing firearms.

A verbal slip-up, in which he mistakenly offered prayers for "those who perished in Toledo" rather than Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people, also drew criticism.

Mr Trump suggested earlier yesterday on Twitter that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the US immigration system. But he didn't say how or why he was connecting the issues. Both shooting suspects were US citizens.

The president's televised comments were quickly rebuked by Democrats, who accused him of lacking a coherent plan to tackle gun violence.

A sweeping bipartisan gun control bill that requires universal background checks passed the House six months ago but the Republican-controlled Senate did not consider either bill and Mr Trump previously suggested he would veto the legislation.

The president has reneged on previous pledges to strengthen gun laws.

After other mass shootings he called for strengthening the federal background check system, and in 2018 he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing into the system. But he has resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.

In a joint statement, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrats in Congress, called on Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell to pass the bills already approved by the House.

"It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation," they said. "When he can't talk about guns, when he talks about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA."

Mr Trump also tried yesterday to deflect from scrutiny over the El Paso killer's manifesto, which had language mirroring some of his own. As Democrats have called on Mr Trump to tone down his rhetoric, the president blamed the news media.

"Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years," he claimed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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