Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 July 2020

US mass shootings: Donald Trump condemns 'racism and white supremacy'

The president said the two massacres were 'an assault on our communities, nation and a crime against all of humanity'

US President Donald Trump described mass shootings in Texas and Ohio as a "crime against all of humanity" as he addressed the nation on Monday after the attacks that left in 31 people dead. AFP
US President Donald Trump described mass shootings in Texas and Ohio as a "crime against all of humanity" as he addressed the nation on Monday after the attacks that left in 31 people dead. AFP

US President Donald Trump has condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, as the death toll climbed to 31.

Mr Trump on Monday sought to strike a unifying tone addressing the tragedies, saying the attacks were “an assault on our communities, an attack on our nation and a crime against all of humanity”.

“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate,” he said.

With the president’s anti-immigration tirades the subject of debate on Saturday’s shooting in a Walmart shop in El Paso, Texas, his words on white supremacy were stronger than in the past.

The New York Times said the manifesto, believed to have been written by shooting accused Patrick Crusius, quotes some of Mr Trump’s campaign speeches about an “invasion” of immigrants into the US and calls for their deportation.

The president called for unity to steer away from such language, calling racism a “sinister ideology” that must be defeated.

“Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul,” Mr Trump said.

But the speech fell short of supporting gun control legislation, blaming mental illness, the internet, social media and video games for the violence.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Mr Trump said. “We must shine a light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

He is expected to visit the sites of the mass shootings in Ohio and Texas on Wednesday but the White House has not confirmed it yet.

Among those who condemned the attack is former president Barack Obama.

He and his wife Michelle called a tweet for changes in gun laws and rejection of hate speech “coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders”.

In Washington on Monday, flags over federal buildings were flown half staff to commemorate the victims.

Three hours before the address, Mr Trump called for legislation to target immigration and gun laws at once, saying that he wanted something “great” to come from the shootings.

“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.”

But the chance of such legislation becoming a law are dim, which could be why the president shied away from it in his address.

House Democrats passed a bill last year calling for stronger background checks for gun owners, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not put it out for a vote and Mr Trump threatened a veto.

He also expressed his condolences to Mexico because at least seven of those killed in El Paso were Mexican.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard threatened legal action.

“The President has instructed me to ensure that Mexico’s indignation translates into efficient, prompt, expeditious and forceful legal actions for Mexico to demand that conditions are established that protect Mexicans in the United States,” Mr Ebrard tweeted.

Democrats running for the nomination to stand against Mr Trump in the 2020 election called for stricter gun measures.

Beto O’Rourke, who is from the city of El Paso, called the president “a racist” and a “white nationalist”.

“He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals," Mr O'Rourke said. "Connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country.

“He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism.”

The Democrats election front-runner, former vice president Joe Biden, asked Mr Trump to pass a ban on assault weapons.

“Mr President, immigration isn’t the problem. White nationalism is the problem," Mr Biden tweeted. "America’s inaction on gun safety legislation is the problem.

"It’s time to put the politics aside and pass universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. Lives depend on it."

It is unlikely that Mr Trump would do so in the run-up to an election, with polls showing that 67 per cent of Republicans oppose a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons.

The same NPR-Marist July poll showed that 83 per cent of Democrats and 55 per cent of independents would support a ban.

The non-profit Gun Violence Archive says there have been 255 mass shootings in the US in 2019, and 33,206 shooting incidents.

Updated: August 5, 2019 11:57 PM

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