President Donald Trump called Monday for “strong background checks” in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, and suggested pairing gun legislation with immigration reform, a top priority of his that he has failed to move through Congress.
“We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain,” Trump said in early-morning tweets, referring to the massacres that left 29 people dead.
“Likewise for those so seriously wounded,” he said. “We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”
Trump’s tweets came three hours ahead of planned remarks at the White House on the shootings.
It remained unclear how explicit Trump would be in his call for stronger background checks and how heavily he would lean on congressional Republicans to take action.
In late February, the Democratic-led House approved the first major new firearm restrictions to advance in a generation. The proposed legislation would amend federal gun laws to require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers.
Federally licensed dealers are required to run background checks on people who buy guns, but private sellers who are not federally licensed are not. Under the bill, private parties would have to seek out a federal licensee to facilitate a gun deal.
The next day, the chamber passed a separate bill that would extend the time for the government to complete a background check on someone trying to buy a gun from a licensed dealer before the sale can go through.
Neither measure, each of which passed with mostly Democratic votes, has advanced in the Senate. Trump has threatened to veto the two bills, saying they do not sufficiently protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
In the wake of the latest mass shootings, Democrats have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to call senators back to Washington from recess to take action.
Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks” in the days after the February 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead.
He later retreated, voicing support for relatively modest changes to the federal background check system, as well as for arming teachers.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, defended Trump’s record on gun safety on Sunday, pointing to what he characterized as “some sensible improvements.”
Mulvaney, during an appearance on ABC’S “This Week,” cited executive action to ban “bump stocks” and other gun modifiers that make semi-automatic firearms fire faster. Those devices were used in the October 2017 shooting at a Las Vegas musical festival that left 58 people dead.
“I think we all agree that sick people who are intent on doing things like this should not be able to buy guns legally,” Mulvaney said. “The challenge of course is trying to identify who is sick when they try and buy their weapons, and that’s the type of discussion we have to have.”
In another tweet Monday morning, Trump appeared to blame the media for recent mass shootings.
“The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country,” he wrote. “Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!”
In recent days, many Democrats have said that divisive rhetoric from Trump on immigration have contributed to the carnage.
While the motives of the shooter in Dayton’s entertainment district remain unclear, the shooter at an El Paso Walmart Supercenter in El Paso is thought to have posted an anti-immigrant screed on 8chan, an online messaging board known for its racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic content, authorities said.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · John Wagner