Monday 26 August 2019

US mass shootings: Donald Trump says Americans must 'condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy'

  • Death toll forom El Paso shooting rises to 21 as dozens injured
  • Trump says 'racism, bigotry and white supremacy' must be condemned
  • US President says 'mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun' amid calls for reform
President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One in New Jersey
Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One in New Jersey Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Roberta Rampton and Susan Heavey

US President Donald Trump has said that Americans must "condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy" after a gunman killed 21 people in an attack in Texas that authorities said appeared to be a racially motivated hate crime.

Trump did not directly address accusations that his anti-immigrant and racially charged comments have contributed to a rise in hate crimes.

"These sinister ideologies must be defeated," he said in remarks at the White House this afternoon. "Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."

On Saturday, a gunman killed 21 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in what authorities said appeared to be a racially motivated hate crime. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people. Dozens also were wounded in the attacks.

Trump said he was directing the Department of Justice to investigate domestic terrorism, and propose legislation to ensure that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty.

Trump had earlier on Monday called for "strong background checks" on gun buyers but in his comments at the White House he gave no details on what he would push for, and it was not the central part of his message.

CCTV captures the moment Patrick Crusius enters the Walmart with an assault rifle. Picture: AFP
CCTV captures the moment Patrick Crusius enters the Walmart with an assault rifle. Picture: AFP

"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," he said.

Mr Trump in a series of tweets reiterated his accusations of "fake news" and media bias.

"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 wrote.

The Republican president spoke briefly to reporters on Sunday as he returned to Washington after spending the weekend at his golf resort in New Jersey, telling reporters that, "hate has no place in our country, and we're going to take care of it."

Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio (AP)
Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio (AP)

On Monday, Trump appealed to both political parties and said the victims' should not "die in vain." He urged lawmakers to pass legislation requiring stricter screenings for gun buyers and possibly tie it to immigration, a top issue that has fueled his presidency and drawn criticism over his comments about migrants and others.

Congress, however, is adjourned on summer recess with US lawmakers not scheduled to return to Washington until September.

Read more here: Trump says hate has no place in US following latest mass shootings

It was not immediately clear what other action Mr Trump planned to take or what remarks he would make later on Monday at the White House, where he is scheduled to speak at 3pm, Irish time.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"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!" Mr Trump wrote.

Melody Stout and Hannah Payan comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Melody Stout and Hannah Payan comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for universal background checks for gun buyers, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the chamber in an emergency session to pass the legislation.

Mr Trump could also invoke his power under the Constitution to call back Congress.

Representatives for McConnell, who broke his shoulder in a fall over the weekend, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The shootings have also reverberated onto the campaign trail for next year's presidential election, as Democrats seeking to regain control of the White House and Senate focused their outrage on the President.

Reuters

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