President Donald Trump on Monday called the mass shootings in El Paso, Tx., and Dayton, Ohio, “a crime against all of humanity” and announced he is directing “the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty.”
In his televised 10-minute statement , the president called the attacks “evil” and “barbaric” and denounced the shooters as “wicked,” he stopped short of supporting broader gun control measures, NBC reports.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
“Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
After the president’s comments, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the minority leader, urged Trump to demand that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the majority leader, “put the bipartisan, House-passed universal background checks bill up for a vote.”
Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in 2011 by a gunman in a parking lot, released a statement on Twitter: “Words alone without action will not save lives. Today is not the first time this President has stood before the nation in the wake of a mass shooting promising to make the safety of our children and communities a top priority, but so far these promises have been empty.”
Trump had suggested earlier on Twitter that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system.
But he has yet to say how or why he was connecting the issues. Both shooting suspects were U.S. citizens. Federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive for the El Paso, Texas, massacre.
On Sunday, President Trump said “hate has no place in our country.”
The president went on to say, “I want to extend our condolences to the people of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, incredible people who have been through a lot. It was horrible but it could have been so much worse,” he added, noting the swift response of local law enforcement.
In recent weeks, President Trump has been strongly criticized for tweeting about four women of color who serve in Congress in terms perceived as racist. In rallies he has spoken of an “invasion” at the southern border.
The New York Times published an analysis on Monday saying that the El Paso shooting suspect’s manifesto echoed Trump’s language. The president “has brought into the mainstream polarizing ideas and people once consigned to the fringes of American society.”
Trump also has been criticized for offering a false equivalency when discussing racial violence, such as when he said there were “very fine people, on both sides,” after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the death of an anti-racism demonstrator.
On gun control, a majority of Americans have consistently said they support stronger laws, but proposals have stalled repeatedly in Congress.
“Nine people were killed and 27 others were injured just as bars were closing at around 1 a.m. Sunday in Dayton’s popular Oregon District,” reported CNN. The motive of the killer, Connor Betts, who was gunned down by police about 30 seconds after he opened fire, may never be known, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, said the news outlet.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in El Paso, Texas, “will seek the death penalty for the man suspected of killing 20 people and injuring more than two dozen others,” in El Paso Saturday, said CBS News. “U.S. Attorney John Bash said they will pursue a criminal investigation, a civil rights hate crime investigation and “domestic terrorism” charges against the suspect, who was identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius,” the news outlet added. The El Paso death toll was raised on Tuesday to 22.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said Crusius purchased his weapon legally.
Earlier, the FBI said it plans to take a closer look at future threats.
“FBI Director Chris Wray has ordered the agency’s offices across the country to conduct a new threat assessment in an effort to thwart future mass attacks,” reported CNN.
Field offices will work to identify threats similar to events that took place in Gilroy, California, and El Paso, and Ohio’s entertainment district, said the outlet. CNN added that the efforts will be overseen by a command group at the FBI’s Washington headquarters.
“The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online,” said the bureau.