Updated at 9:25 a.m.
President Trump is delivering remarks this morning from the White House in response to the deadly shootings over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton that killed 29 people.
He called for bipartisan gun legislation, strengthened mental health policy to identify and help people who need treatment. He also called for the Justice Department to propose the death penalty for perpetrators of hate crimes and mass murders and called out violent video games.
In what might be a preview of his speech, Trump — in a series of tweets — called on Congress to pass gun control legislation, saying the victims shouldn’t die in vain.
…this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
“We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” Trump concluded.
The suspect in the El Paso shooting is believed to be the author of an anti-immigrant manifesto. It’s not clear why, in the wake of that, Trump is now talking about linking gun legislation with immigration reform. Those have been two of the most politically intractable issues in recent years, with bipartisan efforts ultimately failing.
Stalled congressional efforts on gun violence
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the Senate, which is out on recess, back “for an emergency session to put the House-passed universal background checks legislation on the Senate floor for debate and a vote immediately.”
Earlier this year, the Democrat-controlled House passed two bills aimed at making the background check system more stringent, with the support of a handful of Republicans. One would require background checks for all person-to-person gun sales. The other would extend the amount of time gun dealers must wait for a response from the federal background check system. It is currently three days and the House bill would make it 10 days. The Senate has not moved to take up either measure.
In the wake of the shootings, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., tried to revive legislation he co-sponsored following the Sandy Hook school shooting to close what’s known as the “gun show loophole.”
“While no law will end mass shootings entirely, it’s time for Congress to act to help keep our communities safer,” Toomey tweeted. “We should start by passing bipartisan proposals such as my legislation with Senator Joe Manchin to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales.”
While no law will end mass shootings entirely, it’s time for Congress to act to help keep our communities safer. We should start by passing bipartisan proposals such as my legislation with Senator Joe Manchin to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales.— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) August 4, 2019
The 2013 Toomey-Manchin bill was the last major bipartisan effort at new gun control legislation, and it failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
In remarks Sunday in New Jersey on his way home from a weekend at his Bedminster golf resort, President Trump talked about mental health as a factor in the shootings. That’s something he has done after past mass shootings as well. And it might also hint at an avenue for possible legislation. Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is calling for a red-flag law, also known as an extreme risk protective order. Some states, including California, have passed such laws allowing law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people deemed a risk to themselves or others. President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump endorsed the idea as well on Sunday.
Trump’s language on immigration
Since launching his presidential campaign four years ago, President Trump has vilified people coming to the country illegally, referring earlier this year to migrants seeking asylum as an “invasion.” The manifesto believed to have been posted by the shooting suspect in El Paso used similar language, saying “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
In a statement, the FBI said the El Paso attack “underscores the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes.”
Trump alluded to that as he spoke to reporters Sunday. “Hate has no place in our country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to take care of it.”
But critics have pointed to Trump’s own language as part of the problem. In a speech delivered from the Oval Office urging action on his proposed border wall, Trump, as he frequently does, painted immigrants as murderers, though crime rates among undocumented immigrants are lower than in the general population.
“Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders,” Trump said before highlighting high profile cases of violence. “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”
At a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., in May, Trump was again talking about the “invasion” of immigrants and a caravan of migrants near the border when he asked: “But how do you stop with those people?” Someone in the audience shouted loudly “shoot them.” Trump heard the person, chuckled and joked “only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
Administration officials push back on the idea that Trump or his rhetoric have any responsibility to bear, saying the only people responsible for these mass shootings are the people shooting the guns.
In a later tweet Monday morning, Trump seemed to blame the media for the rise in mass shootings. “Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years,” Trump wrote.
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. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
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