President Donald Trump gave formal remarks Monday morning in response to two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but he did not offer one realistic solution for preventing such gun violence in the future.
Instead, the president rehashed most of the major debunked arguments often used by gun advocacy groups to distract from actual gun-violence prevention measures. He also called out racist extremism, without taking any responsibility for his own contributions on that front.
After extending his condolences to the victims and their families, Trump pointed to the alleged El Paso shooter’s manifesto, which was reportedly posted on 8chan prior to the attack, describing the suspect as having been “consumed by racist hate.” The country, he said, “must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” calling them sinister ideologies. He blamed the internet for being “a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts.”
He said that shining light on “the dark recesses” of the internet would “stop the mass murders before they start.”
Trump made no reference to his own social media accounts, which document his recent attacks on nonwhite members of Congress, his constant references to immigration as “invasions,” and the many times he himself has elevated white supremacists on Twitter.
Trump proceeded to outline four ways future gun violence could be prevented, none of which had anything to do with limiting access to guns.
First, he called on social media companies to look for “red flags.” He then called for the end of the “glorification of violence in our society,” including “gruesome and grisly video games.” He also blamed mental illness, falsely suggesting that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Lastly, he called for the death penalty to be used against mass murderers.
Studies have shown that “red flag” laws like Trump proposed have helped reduce suicides in the states where they’ve been enforced. Groups like Everytown for Gun Safety have also noted that such laws, dubbed “Extreme Risk Laws,” also work to prevent mass attacks like those in El Paso and Dayton.
“The emerging body of research shows that Extreme Risk laws work to prevent firearm suicide, and they can also help prevent would-be mass shooters from committing violence,” Everytown noted in March. “An overwhelming majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle support Extreme Risk laws. In a recent survey, 89 percent of likely voters favored Congress passing an Extreme Risk law.”
Extreme Risk laws also enjoy bipartisan support. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on such laws this spring triggered no immediate legislative action. However, on Monday, according to The Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) had reached a deal to introduce a bill meant to encourage and assist states financially with implementation of “red flag” laws. Graham said the bill had the president’s full support.
“These grants will be given to law enforcement so they can hire and consult with mental health professionals to better determine which cases need to be acted upon. This grant program also requires robust due process and judicial review. It does allow for quick action,” he said in a statement.
The claim that video games have any impact on gun violence has been repeatedly debunked. Studies have found no correlation between the rate of video game sales and mass violence. Indeed, the same video games that are popular in the United States are often popular in many other countries that do not experience the same sort of mass gun violence that occurs here. Those countries typically have far fewer guns than the United States.
“Mental illness” is likewise a poor indicator of gun violence. As a recent study found, “access to firearms was the primary culprit” when it came to incidents of gun violence — not mental-health issues.
Trump’s reference to the death penalty on Monday was also misleading. Over 100 countries have abandoned capital punishment, recognizing that it does nothing to deter crime. In fact, the practice is prohibited by the European Union. The Trump administration, on the other hand, recently announced that the federal government would resume the use of capital punishment for the first time in decades.
Noticeably absent from Trump’s speech was any reference to common-sense gun reform, such as a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, or a ban on gun ownership for people who have committed hate crime misdemeanors.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, pointed out Sunday that the House has already passed several gun-violence prevention bills, including legislation requiring universal background checks and legislation closing “the Charleston loophole,” which allows dealers to transfer some firearms before background checks have been completed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has so far refused to take them up in the Senate.
This article has been updated to include comments from Lindsey Graham about his intent to introduce “red flag” legislation.