Trump Proposes Actions to Combat Mass Shootings in Address to Nation

August 5, 2019 Updated: August 5, 2019

President Donald Trump proposed a series of actions to combat mass shootings, from implementing “red flag” laws and reforming mental health laws, to enacting the death penalty for those who commit hate crimes and mass murders.

As he addressed the nation in the Diplomatic Reception Room on Aug. 5, Trump also called for the nation to “condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.” He said these “sinister ideologies” must be defeated.

The president’s roughly 10 minute long remarks come in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio—committed just 13 hours apart—where more than 80 people were killed or wounded in what Trump described as “two evil attacks.”

Trump highlighted five key proposals he said would directly address mass shootings. They include tools to identify early warning signs in mass shooters, reducing the glorification of violence, reforming mental health laws, enacting “red flag” laws to stop dangerous individuals from gaining access to firearms, and enacting the death penalty for mass murderers.

When proposing his plan to better recognize early warning signs, Trump’s first key proposal, he brought up the Parkland shooter in Florida, who had multiple red flags but no decisive action was taken.

“I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools to detect mass shooters before they strike,” Trump said.

In 2018, Trump enacted the STOP School Violence Act in response to school shootings. He said the legislation provided grants to improve school safety and “strengthened critical background checks” for firearm purchases.

In Trump’s second proposal, he called for an end to the “glorification of violence in our society” and specifically pointed to video games. He noted that cultural change is hard.

“This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace,” he said. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

Trump also warned about the internet and how it provides a “dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds.”

Trump also called on mental health laws to be reformed in his third major proposal. He said the new laws would help to “better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence.” He also called for such individuals to not only get treatment but, “when necessary, involuntary confinement.”

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he added.

In 2018, the Department of Justice moved to ban bump stocks at Trump’s direction, which he made mention of in his remarks. Bump stocks are rifle accessories that use the inherent recoil force of the weapon to allow for rapid fire.

Trump’s fourth proposal is to enact “red flag laws” meant to ensure that those who pose a grave risk to public safety don’t have access to firearms, and if they do, they can be taken “through rapid due process.” Red flag laws are also known as extreme risk protection orders.

In his final proposal, Trump said he would direct the Department of Justice to propose legislation that would ensure “those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.”

Trump concluded his remarks with a call for bipartisanship and said he is “open and ready to listen” to discuss ideas “that will actually work and make a very big difference.”

“Republicans and Democrats have proven that we can join together in a bipartisan fashion to address this plague,” he said, referring to the legislation passed in 2018.

The Shootings

In El Paso, Texas, two victims died in the hospital on the morning of Aug. 5, raising the death toll to a total of 22. Dozens were killed and others wounded on Aug. 3 after a 21-year-old, Dallas-area man named Patrick Crusius opened fire, according to law enforcement officials and media reports. 

One police official said he believed most of the victims in the attack were shot at a Walmart located near the Cielo Vista Mall. Crusius later surrendered to police as panicked shoppers and employees ran for cover. 

El Paso police Chief Greg Allen said the suspect was cooperating with investigators.

“He basically didn’t hold anything back,” Allen said at the Aug. 4 news conference but declined to elaborate.

Texas prosecutors charged the man with capital murder for the massacre. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the rampage appeared to be a hate crime and federal prosecutors called it domestic terrorism. 

A state prosecutor said they will seek the death penalty against Crusius if he is found guilty. It was unclear if Crusius has a lawyer or when a bond hearing or other court appearances will occur. 

In his alleged “manifesto,” Crusius attacks both major political parties, according to an online copy posted on Drudge Report. Investigators said they were “reasonably confident” that Crusius penned the manifesto. 

At the end of his manifesto, the attacker noted that his ideology hadn’t changed for “several years.” 

“My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president,” he wrote. “[I’m] putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case.” 

In Dayton, Ohio, nine people were killed and dozens more were wounded after a man clad in body armor fired into a downtown district on Aug. 4. He was shot dead by police shortly after opening fire. 

The suspect, Connor Betts, advocated for gun control and violence against “fascists” as more details came out. 

Betts was shot dead by nearby patrolling police officers within a minute. Law enforcement and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the quick takedown most likely prevented a much higher death toll.

The attacker, Whaley said, was carrying a .223-caliber rifle. Authorities said they believe there was only one attacker in the incident.

Assistant Police Chief Matt Carper told reporters that the incident began at 1 a.m. local time. Lt. Col. Matt Carper described the Oregon District area as “a safe part of downtown,” home to entertainment including bars, restaurants, and theaters.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report

Follow Bowen on Twitter: @BowenXiao3
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