NATIONWIDE — President Donald Trump denounced racism and white supremacy and offered an opportunity for gun reform Monday in an address to the nation after a pair of weekend shootings that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas and 9 others in Dayton, Ohio.
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“These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” Trump said. “Hate has no place in America.”
The comments came after police said the El Paso, Texas gunman’s manifesto cited the President and immigrants for reasons to carry out the attack.
Trump has made immigration a marquee issue of his campaign and presidency.
It is unclear what motive the gunman in Dayton, Ohio had for carrying out his attack.
The FBI is investigating the El Paso attack as domestic terrorism.
“I’m also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty,” Trump said.
Last year, the President signed an order banning the sale and possession of bump stocks, an accessory that allows a semi-automatic firearm to be rapidly fired.
Linking mass shootings to immigration?
When the President suggested combining gun reform legislation with immigration reform in a post to Twitter, however, his comments met resistance:
Critics say the President is inappropriately linking mass shootings to immigration.
“For him to still try to tie gun violence to somehow immigration just further proves he’s ineffective leader and certainly in well over his head,” said Democrat Congressman Val Demings of Orlando.
Demings said the time for Congress to take action has long come and gone.
“I’m angry about that, my heart goes out to the families, but I work in one of the most powerful governing bodies in the world and we can certainly do a hell of a lot more than offer thoughts and prayers,” Demings said.
House Democrats have passed two gun reform measures, but they have yet to be heard in the Senate.
The measures would extend the background check waiting period from 3 days to 10 and also close the so-called “Charleston Loophole” by putting restrictions in place on transfers of firearms between private individuals.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement Monday calling on McConnell to cancel the August recess and for the Senate to take up a vote on the issues.
Florida safety measures so far
While Florida lawmakers did little after the June 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49, they did enact measures after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February 2018.
Then-Gov. Rick Scott faced some backlash from supporters when he signed a bill that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and banned bump stocks.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act also gives law enforcement the ability to ask a judge to ban a person from owning a firearm for up to one year if that person is deemed dangerous because of mental illness.
The sweeping changes included $300 million for school safety efforts and mental health programs.
An assault weapons ban in Florida?
There has been a growing effort to ban assault weapons in Florida since 2016.
State Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) announced Monday she planned to file legislation for the fourth year in a row that aims to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
“The weekend tragedies in El Paso and Dayton served as a horrific reminder of the massive damage these weapons of war can inflict in just seconds,” Stewart said. “We witnessed this first hand at Pulse and at Parkland. Mental health may play a role in setting the stage for these killings, but it is the gun itself and the firing of that weapon that leads to the carnage. We owe it to the survivors, and to the people of Florida who overwhelmingly have supported such a ban, to outlaw these weapons once and for all.”
Families of victims and survivors of Pulse and Parkland are among those involved with “Ban Assault Weapons NOW,” a group seeking to petition voters to ban assault weapons as a referendum on the 2020 ballot.
The group has received the necessary votes needed for the Florida Supreme Court to review the measure, but Attorney General Ashley Moody is pushing back, hoping to block the initiative on the grounds that its language is vague and confusing.
Florida Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Tampa) said Monday that he wants his Chamber to “…focus on steps the Senate can take to review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings. This includes white nationalism, which appears to be a factor not only with regard to these recent mass shootings, but also with other acts of violence we have seen across the country in recent years.”