Donald Trump is under pressure on two fronts following the weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The shootings, which left at least 29 people dead, have seen the US president face outrage over racism and the failure of gun control in America.
“Hate has no place in our country, and we are going to take care of it,” said Trump on Sunday. “This has been going on for years, for years and years in our country and we have to get it stopped.” The president linked both attacks to a “mental illness problem”, saying: “If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are people who are very, very seriously mentally ill,” he said. However, as the BBC points out, “critics argue that the roots of the two massacres lie not in mental illness, but in the president’s language about immigrants and Mexicans in particular, and his opposition to gun control”.
The Times points out that the FBI has made about 100 arrests linked to white supremacy this year, which critics link to Trump’s remarks that migrants are “invading” the United States. He has singled out Hispanic migrants as “rapists” and “criminals”. Senior Democrats have “condemned the president as a nakedly white nationalist and racist leader,” The Guardian says, pointing to “Trump’s escalating attacks on migrants at the border and on members of Congress of colour”. Among those Democrats is Cory Booker, a US senator from New Jersey. He said Trump “is responsible for what is going on and is doing nothing to stop the carnage and chaos”.
Beto O’Rourke, who was born in El Paso, went even further, telling CNN: “Let’s be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country.” Looking ahead, CNN suggests that Trump should “use the bully pulpit of his presidency to attack the ideological underpinnings of right-wing violence rather than stoking its flames”. Meanwhile, the attacks have naturally increased calls for gun control in the US. A surprising voice joining the chorus is that of the New York Post. The right-wing tabloid’s front page calls on Trump to “ban weapons of war”, telling him “America is scared and we need bold action”.
The Wall Street Journal says the weekend’s attacks have seen gun control “thrust into” the 2020 White House election campaign, with Trump conceding “perhaps more has to be done” to prevent mass shootings. Some are sceptical that this will be the moment when America begins to wrestle the issue, pointing out that if the 2012 Newtown shooting, when 26 people – including 20 young children – were killed in a Connecticut school, then there is little reason to expect change now.