Trump condemns white supremacy, vague on gun control reforms
Updated 11:02, 06-Aug-2019

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday condemned white supremacy and proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty in response to two mass shootings over the weekend that left 31 people dead in Texas and Ohio.

Trump, a Republican, whom Democrats have accused of stoking racial divisions, said Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” a day after Texas officials said racial hatred was a possible motive in the killings of 22 people in the southern border city of El Paso.

"The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online, consumed by racist hate," the president said in a televised address to the nation from the White House. "And [with] one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy." 

On Saturday, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in what authorities believe to be a racially-motivated hate crime. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people. Dozens were wounded in both attacks.

A sign during a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S., August 4, 2019. /Reuters Photo

A sign during a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S., August 4, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Gun culture is deeply rooted in America, and efforts to strengthen firearms regulations remain divisive even though mass shootings are commonplace. 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, an NGO. It defines such an event as a shooting in which at least four people are killed or wounded.  

Mass shootings by lone attackers in recent years have heightened concerns about gun violence and the threat posed by racist and white-supremacist ideologies. 

Trump, who has been accused of failing to aggressively tackle domestic extremist groups, said he would direct the U.S. Justice Department to investigate domestic terrorism and would propose legislation to ensure that those who commit hate crimes and mass murder face the death penalty.

He also said the country needs to reform mental health laws to identify disturbed individuals and to work with social media companies to detect potential mass shooters. In a Twitter post earlier on Monday, Trump called for “strong background checks” on gun buyers, but he did not elaborate on the idea and it was not the central part of his White House statement.

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Following the latest shootings, Trump said that "hate has no place in our country," but his claim was rejected by some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who accused Trump of stoking racial divisions. 

"Donald Trump is responsible for this. He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry," U.S. Senator Cory Booker said.

"Let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is," Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said. "He is an open avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country."

Democrats also accused Trump of hiding behind talk of mental health reform and the role of social media instead of committing to laws aimed at curbing gun violence in the United States.

(With input from Reuters, AFP)