The US President Donald Trump says the cause of the mass shootings over the weekend was not guns, but “the glorification of violence” and video games.
Trump also blamed the internet and mental illness for the latest spate of violence perpetrated by two separate gunmen, who in total, killed 31 people and injured 53 in under 24 hours.
These are the President’s first public remarks about the shootings, which occurred in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. He also commented on the anti-immigrant manifesto which was allegedly tied to the gunmen in El Paso.
The manifesto stated that the act was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” and expressed sympathy for the white nationalist massacre at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year. The shooter later told investigators he wanted to kill as many Mexicans as he could.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate,” Trump said. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”
It is at odds with Trump’s preferred rhetorics on these issues. Recently, he told four U.S congresswomen of colour to “go back” to where they came from. And he did nothing to assuage the chants of “Send her back!” at recent rallies, later saying about the chanting – “I felt a little bit badly about it.”
Trump did not use his speech to mention any further restrictions on gun control and failed to call for Congress to return from summer recess to consider new reforms.
Who is to blame for these atrocities?
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said.
In a tweet hours before his speech, however, Trump said that “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks.”
He also added, “perhaps marrying….this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”
Since the two mass shootings, Trump has deliberately and consistently avoided the issue of firearms, instead channeling the dialogue towards “sinister ideologies” that “must be defeated.”
He addressed the nation from the White House on Monday, saying “Hate has no place in America.”
This is a man who openly laughed and made a joke of a comment from a crowd member suggesting to shoot migrants.
If guns are not what’s causing these merciless violence, what is? According to Trump, it’s “mentally disturbed individuals.” He believes the solution is to “make sure those people, not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement.”
What else is to blame? Video games.
“It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence,” he said. “The gruesome and grisly video games are now common place. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.”
This, despite common knowledge now that there is no correlation between video games and violence. A 2004 report by the Secret Service and Department of Education revealed that out of dozens of mass shootings, only 12% of perpetrators showed interest in violent video games. Trump’s own administration released a report last year that found weak links connecting video games with mass shootings.
Entertainment Software Association even responded, saying, “More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions of people play video games worldwide. Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the U.S.”
In the years before his presidency, Trump accumulated a long record of insulting rhetoric involving African Americans, Mexicans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. These are frightening sentiments from a man who has built his political career on explicit racism, bigotry and white supremacy ideology.
Beto O’Rouke, 2020 democratic presidential candidate and a native of El Paso, has linked Trump’s remarks to that of Nazi Germany: “The only modern western democracy that I can think of that said anything close to this is the Third Reich, Nazi Germany.” O’Rouke continues to encourage the media to call out the president’s racist rhetoric. “We know what Trump is doing. He stokes racism. He incites violence. We shouldn’t be asking if there’s anything he can do or if he’s responsible for this when we know the answer.”
Guns take the lives of roughly 100 people in the states each day. Between 1966 and 2012, the U.S had more than 270 million guns and 90 mass shooters. No other country had more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. Yet, this current president continues to renege on previous vows to toughen gun control laws. Last year, he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing into the background check system of gun owners, but nothing has come of that yet.
In her opinion piece in today’s New York Times, columnist Michelle Goldberg said, “Donald Trump has kept the far right excited and agitated.”
She rightly states the connection between Trump’s language about an immigrant “invasion” and Democratic support for “open borders,” to the El Paso shooter’s manifesto.
What horrifies me now with an almost unbearable hellish dread is that it’ll be no time at all before we see, once again, the president turn the language of white nationalism into mainstream political rhetoric. This sort of normalisation is killing people. It is violence, at its most base level.