President Donald Trump is already trying to hold gun-law reform hostage to his anti-immigration agenda.
On Monday morning, following a weekend of two horrific mass shootings, including an attack in El Paso that left at least 20 people dead, the president floated an idea for how to prevent mass shootings, tying changes in gun laws to his long-desired immigration reform.
“We can never forget them, and those many who came before them,” Trump tweeted about the victims of the weekend’s carnage. “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!”
The shooting in El Paso took place in a Walmart store on Saturday morning around 10. Just hours later, early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire outside a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring dozens more. The Dayton gunman has been described as a young white man, and the suspected El Paso gunman told investigators that he picked El Paso in order to kill as many Mexicans as possible.
There have been more than 900 mass shootings since 2017, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, including the Las Vegas shooting, which left 58 dead and more than 500 injured. In 2019, there have been more mass shootings than days: Sunday was the 216th day of the year and there had been 251 mass shootings.
Still, on Sunday, Trump made a grand and unsubstantiated claim about his administration’s record. “We have done much more than most administrations,” he said, without providing evidence. “We have done actually a lot. But perhaps more has to be done.”
Trump’s attempt to tie gun law reform to immigration restrictions came as leaders in the Hispanic community condemned his anti-immigrant rhetoric, drawing a connection between the president's words and the alleged attackers' actions. The suspected El Paso shooter, who is white, is believed to have posted a hate-filled manifesto shortly before the attack, saying it was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
“The president has put a target on the back of the Hispanic community for years now, and there's a cost to that kind of dangerous and racially divisive rhetoric,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, who represents nearby San Antonio, told VICE News shortly after the shooting. ”If you look at the shooter‘s manifesto, it's consistent with the language that President Trump has used to describe Hispanic immigrants as being part of an invasion of the United States.”
Beto O’Rourke, a 2020 Democratic candidate who represented El Paso in Congress, was asked if the president could do something to make the situation better.
“What do you think?” he said, according to CNN. “You know the shit he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the fuck?”
By Monday morning, after his tweets about immigration reform, Trump had started blaming gun violence on the press. “Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years,” he tweeted, in part.
Trump is scheduled to travel to El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday.
Cover: President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, N.J., Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)