U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday urged Republicans and Democrats to agree on tighter gun control and suggested legislation could be linked to immigration reform after two shootings left at least 31 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric is fueling a rise in white supremacist terrorism.
“Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform,” Trump tweeted as he prepared to address the nation on two weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio.
“We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” Trump wrote.
In a nationwide address from the White House on Monday, Trump said lawmakers “must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that if they do, these firearms can be taken through rapid due process.”
“That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders,” he added.
Trump also said he had directed the FBI to use all resources to combat “hate crimes and domestic terrorism.” However, in 2016, the Trump administration ended a federal law enforcement program that monitored and investigated far-right and other forms of domestic extremism, redirecting funds to focus on foreign terrorism.
The president has made a crackdown on immigration both legal and illegal a centerpiece of his presidency and even more so of late as he campaigns for re-election next year and reaches out to his overwhelmingly white base.
Gun culture is deeply rooted in parts of America. Though polls have consistently shown that a significant majority of Americans support tighter restrictions on guns, any efforts to strengthen firearms regulations have been blocked by Republicans in Congress, even though mass shootings are commonplace.
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. We are so much better than this president. https://t.co/SYMT77fbOf
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 5, 2019
Legislation calling for stronger background checks on would-be gun purchasers passed in February in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives but have not even been put to a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
Among other measures, Democrats have also called for a ban on high-powered semi-automatic rifles or “assault weapons.”
The weekend massacres in El Paso and Dayton were the 250th and 251st mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which counts any attack in which at least four people are killed or wounded, not including the shooter.
The powerful National Rifle Association, which floods both state governments and Congress with money, is a firm supporter of Trump and he has appeared regularly at NRA conferences in recent years.
‘Reaping What He’s Sown’
Trump has been widely condemned for failing to take the threat of far-right extremism seriously and for his own xenophobic and racist rhetoric, which many say has fueled white nationalist terrorism.
Since, 9/11, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the U.S. have been committed by white men, many of whom have been motivated by far-right, white nationalist ideologies.
The El Paso shooter reportedly posted an online racist manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas, quoting Trump on multiple occasions and mimicking his rhetoric. El Paso is mainly Latino.
The shooter had also reportedly posted an image to social media showing “Trump” written out on the ground with a cache of firearms.
Democratic presidential hopefuls tore into Trump over the weekend, calling him a racist whose language emboldens violent extremists.
Former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke accused the president of seeking to “drive us apart and make us afraid, angry,” arguing that El Paso proved he was succeeding.
The number one thing this president could do to fight white nationalism is to resign.
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) August 5, 2019
“We’ve seen a rise in hate crimes over the last three years … The writing has been on the wall since that maiden speech describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals,” O’Rourke told MSNBC.
“Anyone who is surprised is part of this problem right now, including members of the media who ask, ‘Hey, Beto, do you think the president is racist?’ Well, Jesus Christ, of course he is. He’s trafficked this stuff from the very beginning. We are reaping what he’s sown and we have to put a stop to it.”
O’Rouke, as well as other candidates including Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, were not hesitant to call Trump a racist and a white nationalist in recent interviews.
While Sanders said he is sure Trump does not want to see anybody killed, he said that “all of the evidence out there suggests that we have a president who is a racist, who is a xenophobe, who appeals, and is trying to appeal, to white nationalism.”
But Trump on Monday found blame elsewhere. On Monday, he blamed the news media for violence like the weekend shootings.
“Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years,” he tweeted.
Trump said Sunday that “hate has no place in our country,” but he also blamed mental illness for the violence.
“These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill,” he said, although police have not confirmed such a claim.
Other Republicans have blamed video games and a lack of prayer in schools for the carnage.
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