DAYTON: US President Donald Trump met in Ohio on Wednesday with victims and first responders from one of last weekend’s two deadly mass shootings that shocked the country, even as critics and protesters accused him of inflaming tensions with anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric.
Trump visited Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, where the victims were treated after nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early on Sunday.
Crowds of protesters outside the hospital set up a “baby Trump” blimp balloon, chanted “Do Something!” and held signs reading “Hate not welcome here,” “Stop this terror,” and “You are why.”
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on Twitter that Trump stopped by hospital rooms and met with patients while thanking the medical staff for their work.
Later in the day, Trump was scheduled to visit the Texas city of El Paso, on the border with Mexico, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart store on Saturday by a 21-year-old man who had posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online.
The back-to-back massacres, occurring 13 hours apart, have reopened the national debate over gun safety.
As he left the White House, Trump said he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and make sure mentally ill people did not carry guns.
He predicted congressional support for those two measures but not for banning assault rifles. “I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I will certainly bring that up ... There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks.”
On Monday, Trump gave a speech focusing on mental health reforms, tighter internet regulation and wider use of the death penalty.
In Iowa, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden planned to say in a campaign speech, “We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”
Authorities in Texas have said they are investigating Saturday’s shooting spree in the predominantly Hispanic west Texas border city of El Paso as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism. They cited a racist manifesto posted online shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019