In an address on Monday following two mass shootings over the weekend that left 31 dead in Texas and Ohio, US President Donald Trump said that the country must “condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.” There have been more than 250 mass shootings in US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which counts a mass shooting as any attack in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, are killed or wounded.
In his speech, Trump blamed mental illness and violent video games for the propensity of gun violence. He called for stronger mental health assessments in relation to firearms licenses and purchases.
“We vow to act with urgent resolve,” he said.
Trump blames video games, mental illness
The president said that gun crime would be reduced if “video games that celebrate violence” were more difficult to access, despite the prevalence of mental illness and violent video games in the rest of the world.
He then said that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Trump further suggested measures like involuntary confinement for the mentally ill in some cases, or the threat of the death penalty, saying this could serve as a deterrent.
The president called the recent attacks in a Walmart supermarket in El Paso, Texas, that was likely motivated by racism, and another in Dayton, Ohio, “barbaric…crimes against all humanity.”
Residents of Dayton were displeased, however, because the president mistakenly referred to the city of Toledo, Ohio, as the site of the shooting during his address.
Obama, Clinton, cast doubt on mental health claims
Both Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and his former rival Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to point out that while mass shootings at this scale are unique to the US, video games and mental illness is not.
People suffer from mental illness in every other country on earth; people play video games in virtually every other country on earth.
The difference is the guns.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 5, 2019
In a statement, Barack and Michelle Obama shared their sympathies with the families of the victims in El Paso and Dayton, while highlighting the need to hold lawmakers accountable for tolerating white supremacy and continuing to support lax gun laws.
“No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do,” they wrote. “Every time this happens, we’re told that tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders…but the evidence shows that they can stop some killings.”
The Obamas also compared assailants including the El Paso shooter, who was motivated by racism, to terrorists such as “Islamic State” fighters who become radicalized by organizations promoting hateful ideologies.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 5, 2019
“We are not helpless here,” they said. “And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”
Ohio governor’s vigil interrupted
Earlier on Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine held a vigil for the nine killed and 27 injured by a gunman the previous day. His speech was interrupted by protesters chanting for him to “do something” about gun violence.
DeWine has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his pro-gun stance.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said that unlike in El Paso, where the attacker was likely trying to target a large immigrant population, they did not see “any indication of race being a motive” in the shooting that left the 24-year-old assailant’s sister and eight others dead.