Protesters chant for action on guns as Trump visits Dayton

August 8, 2019

Demonstrators chant as they protest the arrival of President Donald Trump outside Miami Valley Hospital after a mass shooting that occurred in the Oregon District early Sunday morning, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Dayton.

DAYTON, Ohio Protesters greeted President Donald Trump's arrival in Dayton Wednesday, blaming his incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country and demanding action on gun control as he visited survivors of last weekend's mass shootings and saluted first responders.

The president and first lady Melania Trump began their visit at the hospital where many of the victims of Sunday's attack were treated. Reporters traveling with the president were kept out of view, but White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that the couple had "been stopping between rooms to thank the hardworking medical staff. Very powerful moments for all!"

Outside Miami Valley Hospital, at least 200 protesters gathered, hoping to send a message to the president by calling for action. Some said Trump was not welcome in their city. There were Trump supporters, as well.

Emotions are still raw in the aftermath of the early Sunday morning shooting rampage that left 10 dead, including the gunman, in the city's popular Oregon entertainment district. Critics contend Trump's own words have contributed to a combustible climate that has spawned violence in cities including El Paso, Texas, where another shooter killed 22 people over the weekend.

Trump rejected that assertion as he left the White House, strongly criticizing those who say he bears some responsibility for the nation's divisions.

"My critics are political people," Trump said, noting the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings and suggesting the man was supportive of Democrats.

"Had nothing to do with President Trump," Trump said. "So these are people that are looking for political gain."

He also defended his rhetoric on issues including immigration, claiming instead that he "brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well."

Some 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse, according to recent Pew Research Center polling.

And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely."

President Donald Trump is greeted by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, after arriving at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to meet with people affected by the mass shooting in Dayton, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

In Dayton, raw anger and pain were on display as protesters chanted "Ban those guns" and "Do something!" during Trump's visit. This White House typically goes out of its way to shield protesters from Trump's view.

Holding a sign that said "Not Welcome Here," Lynnell Graham said she thinks Trump's response to the shootings has been insincere.

"To me he comes off as fake," she said.

Dorothee Bouquet, stood in the bright sun with her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, tucked in a stroller. She told them they were going to a protest "to tell grownups to make better rules."

But in El Paso, where more protests were expected, Raul Melendez, whose father-in-law, David Johnson, was killed in Saturday's shooting, said the most appropriate thing Trump could do was to meet with relatives of the victims.

"It shows that he actually cares, if he talks to individual families," said Melendez, who credits Johnson with helping his 9-year-old daughter survive the attack by pushing her under a counter. Melendez, an Army veteran and the son of Mexican immigrants, said he holds only the shooter responsible for the attack.

"That person had the intent to hurt people, he already had it," he said. "No one's words would have triggered that."

Local Democratic lawmakers who'd expressed concern about the visit said Trump had nonetheless hit the right notes Wednesday.

"He was comforting, he did the right things, and Melania did the right things. It's his job to comfort people," said Sen. Sharrod Brown, who nonetheless said he was "very concerned about a president that divides in his rhetoric and plays to race in his rhetoric."

"I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton," added Mayor Nan Whaley, who said she felt it was probably good Trump did not visit the site of the shooting.

"A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive, and that's the last thing we need in Dayton," she said.

Visits to the cities of mass shootings have become a regular pilgrimage for recent presidents including Trump. Yet he has not excelled at projecting empathy in public, often mixing what can sound like perfunctory expressions of grief with awkward offhand remarks. While he has offered hugs to tornado victims and spent time at the bedsides of shooting victims, he has yet to project the kind of emotion and vulnerability of his recent predecessors.

Barack Obama grew visibly shaken as he addressed the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and teared up while delivering a 2016 speech on new gun control efforts. George W. Bush helped bring the country together following the Sept. 11 attacks, notably standing atop the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm draped over the shoulder of a firefighter, as he shouted through a bullhorn.

Trump, too, has been able to summon soothing words. But then he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements just recently painting immigrants as "invaders," suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should "go back" to their home countries even though they're U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.

Even on the eve of his trip, Trump was lashing out at a potential 2020 rival, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who had tweeted that Trump "helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible" and "should not come to El Paso."

O'Rourke "should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!" Trump snapped back on Twitter.

Trump said before leaving Washington that Congress was making progress on possible new gun legislation. He said he has had "plenty of talks" with lawmakers in recent days and that there is a "great appetite to do something with regard to making sure that mentally unstable, seriously ill people aren't carrying guns." He argued there is no such appetite for banning assault-style rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

But passage of a pending background check bill in the Senate remains unlikely. Support for a bipartisan measure reached a high-point with a 2013 vote after the Sandy Hook shooting but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

This White House also has invited internet and technology companies to a roundtable discussion on online extremism Friday. Trump is not expected to attend.


Mass shootings so far this year almost reach 2018 levels

SEATTLE Just seven months into 2019, the U.S. has experienced almost as many mass killings as occurred in all of 2018.

Back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio brought the total number of mass killings so far this year to 23, leaving 131 people dead. There were 25 mass killings in 2018, claiming 140 lives, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, Northeastern University and USA Today.

The database tracks every mass killing dating back to 2006, and the El Paso and Dayton massacres had traits that were similar to many earlier incidents. That includes shooting a family member while carrying out a mass killing, which happened in Dayton; the young age of the perpetrators; and the tendency of the shooters to commit suicide or get killed by police.

Here are some takeaways:


OVERALL NUMBERS

The last three years have seen several fluctuations in mass killing numbers. In 2017, 225 people died in 32 mass killings, driven by the massacre in Las Vegas. In 2018, the year was marked by a surge in mass killings in public places, including schools in Texas and Florida.

A typical year has roughly 29 mass killings.

Mass killings defined as killings involving four or more fatalities, not including the killer have occurred in 16 states this year. California has experienced four of them.


FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED

The majority of mass killings involve domestic violence, and eight of 74 public mass shootings since 2006 involved the killing of a blood relative, the data shows. The shooter's parent, sibling, cousin, nephew or niece was shot first and then the perpetrator sought out others to kill.

"They'll take it out on family and then society, figuring they already committed a murder," said David Chipman, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who now works as a policy adviser at Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence. "Domestic violence is the most risky call for service that police go on."

Before 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 children and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, he had fatally shot his mother in their Newtown, Connecticut home.

Jaylen Fryberg, 15, sent text messages to lure two cousins and several friends to the cafeteria at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, in 2014. He then shot the four students before turning the gun on himself.

And last month, police say a man in Southern California began his rampage by killing and injuring family members before shooting strangers. In the end, he is accused of killing four people.


YOUNG KILLERS

The AP/USA Today/Northeastern database shows that many mass shootings are committed by a certain demographic: young, white men.

Most mass shootings in the U.S. are carried out by men, with white men making up nearly 50 percent of the shooters, the database shows.

The median age of a public mass shooter is 28; significantly lower than the median age of a person who commits a mass shooting of their family, according to the database.

Since 2006, 12 mass shootings have been committed by gunmen 21 or younger. That includes the 21-year-old suspected gunman in El Paso.


ARRESTED OR KILLED

More than half of public mass shooters either kill themselves on the scene or are shot by police.

Lanza and Fryberg killed themselves, as did Stephen Paddock, the man who killed 58 people and wounded 422 attending a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017. So did the man who killed 33 at Virginia Tech in 2007; the former municipal worker who murdered 12 in Virginia Beach this year; and the mentally ill man who gunned down four at an IHop restaurant in Nevada in 2011. The Pulse nightclub shooter was killed by police in Orlando.

The man who opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July also committed suicide.

"They obviously went through the thought process of 'I may end up dead,'" said Frank Farley, a Temple University psychology professor and former president of the American Psychological Association. "And did it anyway."

James Holmes, who killed 12 and wounded 70 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison. Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who fatally shot nine people attending the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, was sentenced to death.

Prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty for Patrick Wood Crusius, the man accused of fatally shooting 22 people at an El Paso Walmart.
 


Bipartisan 'red flag' gun laws plan has support in Congress

WASHINGTON Despite frequent mass shootings, Congress has proved to be unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation, largely because of resistance from Republicans.

But a bipartisan proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is gaining momentum following weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead. The emerging plan would create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt "red flag" laws to take guns away from people believed to be dangers to themselves or others.

A similar bill never came up for a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate last year, but both parties express hope that this year will be different. President Donald Trump has signaled support for the plan.

"We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process," Trump said in a White House speech on Monday.

Many mass shootings "involved individuals who showed signs of violent behavior that are either ignored or not followed up on," said Graham, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. "State red flag laws will provide the tools for law enforcement to do something about many of these situations before it's too late."

In an interview Tuesday, Blumenthal said there's "a growing wave of support on both sides of the aisle" for the red-flag plan more momentum in fact "than any other gun violence plan" being debated in Congress, including a proposal Blumenthal supports to require universal background checks for gun purchases.

A closer look at red flag laws, which have been adopted by at least 17 states and the District of Columbia, including a law set to take effect Aug. 24 in New York. Most of the laws have been approved since the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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HOW DOES A RED FLAG LAW WORK?

In general, red flag or "extreme risk protection order" laws allow courts to issue temporary orders barring someone from possessing guns based on some showing of imminent danger or a risk of misuse.

State laws vary, but most stipulate that only specific people usually family or household members may petition a court for an extreme risk protection order. In some cases, a preliminary order may be granted without prior notice to the person who is the subject of the order.

Such an order typically is brief, ranging from a few days to about three weeks. Once the person who is alleged to pose a risk of gun violence has been given an opportunity to respond, a more permanent order may be granted, typically for up to a year.

Importantly to Graham and other supporters, before an order can be entered, some factual showing must be made that the subject of the order poses a risk of using a firearm to harm themselves or others.

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WHAT IS THE FEDERAL PROPOSAL?

Graham and Blumenthal are still developing the plan, but a similar bill proposed last year by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson essentially would pay states to implement red flag law programs. A bid last year by Graham and Blumenthal to let federal courts keep guns away from people who show warning signs of violence failed to generate political support.

Blumenthal called the failed effort to create a federal program a learning experience and said the new proposal would set a national standard that states must meet in order to be eligible for federal grants. He compared it to federal highway laws where grants are dependent on states setting speed limits or drunk-driving standards.

"If you have speed limits, you get the money," he said, adding that the red flag law would operate on the same principle.

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HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?

Costs are still being worked out, but whatever the amount, "it's a small fraction of the losses both monetary and in the loss of life as a result of gun violence," Blumenthal said.

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WHO SUPPORTS THE PLAN?

Nearly all Senate Democrats support red flag laws, along with a growing number of Republicans, including Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, Indiana's Mike Braun and Iowa's Chuck Grassley, a former Judiciary chairman. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican, told the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls that he's "confident Congress will be able to find common ground on the so-called 'red flag' issue."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday he is open to the proposal, noting that the alleged shooter in Dayton, Ohio, kept a "hit list" of people he wanted to target in high school. "Clearly people knew something was wrong with this guy, and yet nobody went to the proper authorities or the proper authorities didn't respond," Portman said.

A red flag law may "bridge this issue of the guns and the mental health issue, where you identify somebody who has a mental health history that might not be formally diagnosed, but that people know about," he said.

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WHERE IS SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL?

The Kentucky Republican, who has adopted the nickname the "Grim Reaper" to celebrate his success at blocking Democratic bills, is widely considered the single biggest roadblock to changes in gun laws or any significant legislation in Congress. McConnell has not publicly indicated a position on red flag laws but said in a statement Monday that "Senate Republicans are prepared to do our part" to address gun violence. He said he has spoken with Graham and other committee chairs and asked them to consider "potential solutions to help protect our communities without infringing on Americans' constitutional rights."

Congress passed a modest measure last year to shore up the federal background checks system and approved a grant program to prevent school violence signs that action on gun violence is possible, McConnell said.

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WHAT ABOUT THE NRA?

A National Rifle Association spokeswoman declined to comment. In a statement, the group said it welcomes Trump's call "to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country. It has been the NRA's long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment."


Democrats push for buybacks, new restrictions in gun plans

LAS VEGAS Democratic presidential candidates are releasing new gun control plans and embracing proposals to buy back military-style weapons and ammunition after three high-profile mass shootings killed 33 people last week.

Most of the Democrats running in the packed primary have routinely called for requiring background checks on all firearm purchases and banning bump stock devices that mimic automatic gunfire.

In the wake of shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, candidates are releasing more detailed plans and embracing federal gun buybacks, where the government compensates people for turning over weapons. Local governments across the U.S. have run such initiatives to get people to voluntarily give up guns.

A look at some of the plans from Democratic candidates to combat mass shootings and toughen gun control laws:

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ASSAULT WEAPONS AND GUN BUYBACKS

Almost all the candidates say they want to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault weapons, which prohibited the sale of new weapons. Some have gone further, proposing ways to reduce the number of military-style weapons owned privately. The most popular is a federal buyback program.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said this week, after the shooting in his hometown, that he would be open to a mandatory buyback of guns, though he didn't specify which kinds of weapons. That's something only California Rep. Eric Swalwell had embraced before he dropped out of the presidential race last month.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders say they'd push for a voluntary weapon buyback program, in addition to reinstating the prohibition on military-style weapons.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg stopped short this week of endorsing such a plan. First he wants to ban the sale of new assault weapons, Buttigieg said, "then we can figure out other mechanisms to reduce the number that are circulating out there."

Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro has said he supports a federal ban on assault weapons. He said during a CNN town hall in April that he supports "things like gun buybacks" but did not elaborate on whether he was calling for a federal buyback.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris are among those who have said they support banning assault weapons. Harris has also said she would use executive action to ban the import of AR-15-style assault weapons to the U.S.

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WHITE NATIONALISM AND DOMESTIC TERROR

Inslee put forward a plan Tuesday that would direct federal law enforcement agencies to develop a strategy for confronting white nationalism, along with tracking white nationalists and releasing an annual report on domestic terrorism.

His plan also called for barring anyone with a misdemeanor conviction for a hate crime from buying a gun.

Buttigieg's plan, also released Tuesday, proposed a $1 billion effort to combat radicalization and domestic terrorism. The mayor also proposed pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study links between white supremacists and gun violence.

While they haven't released specific plans to address white nationalism, Harris, Sanders, Biden and Warren have called for using more national resources to combat it and domestic terrorism.

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LICENSING

Booker, Buttigieg and Inslee have all released plans calling for a nationwide requirement that every gun owner be trained and have a license. Booker also proposed a rule limiting gun buyers to one purchase a month, a proposal aimed at curbing traffickers making bulk purchases in states with weaker gun laws. He also proposed requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms.

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TECHNOLOGY

In his gun control plan, Booker said he will push to require new handguns to stamp identifying information on bullet casings when a shot is fired. Proponents say the technology allows the casings to be linked to the gun that fired them, making it easier to solve gun crimes.

Biden has endorsed the idea of requiring fingerprint-identification technology that only allows a gun to be fired when held by the authorized owner.

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OTHER MEASURES

Most of the Democratic candidates have called for a ban on high-capacity magazines, which allow shooters to fire more bullets without reloading. Almost all of them have also called for a ban on bump stocks, the devices used by the gunman in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns. The Trump administration issued a rule banning the attachments in December 2018, but Democratic candidates have called for that to be made more permanent by Congress.

Most of the candidates support "red flag" laws allowing a judge to order guns to be taken from someone deemed to be threat, and there's broad agreement about requiring background checks on all gun purchases. That includes closing loopholes that allow someone to purchase guns before their background check is completed or allow private purchases and transfers without a background check.

Warren is expected to release a detailed gun control proposal Saturday, but she has already said she supports universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.


Trump seeks to link Dayton shooter to liberal politics

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump linked the suspected gunman in the Dayton mass shooting to liberal candidates and organizations Wednesday, even as he pushed back against critics who tied the El Paso attack to his own comments on immigration.

Posts from a Twitter account that appeared to belong to Connor Betts, the 24-year-old Dayton shooter, endorsed communism, bemoaned Trump's election and supported Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president. Betts killed nine people including his sister Sunday before officers fatally shot him.

"If you look at Dayton, that was a person that supported, I guess you would say, Bernie Sanders, I understood; antifa, I understood; Elizabeth Warren, I understood," Trump said.

Antifa is a reference to anti-fascist protesters. The assault in a nightlife district "had nothing to do with President Trump."

Trump and White House officials stressed repeatedly that they have avoided blaming liberals for the Dayton shooting, but they noted again and again that the shooter was an apparent supporter.

Mass shooting suspects "are sick people. These are people that are really mentally ill, mentally disturbed," Trump told reporters shortly before departing for Dayton to meet with first responders and victims.

Democrats rejected any connection between the gunman's motives and liberal politics. They said Trump was seeking to distract Americans from criticism that the president's own rhetoric on immigration contributed to the mass shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead and many others wounded.

Authorities believe the suspected gunman in that shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, posted an anti-immigrant screed online shortly before the attack. In the 2,300-word post, Crusius said he worried that a "Hispanic invasion of Texas" was furthering the elimination of the white race.

"Leaders have a responsibility to speak out and to not incite violence," Warren campaign spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in a statement. "But let's be clear - there is a direct line between the president's rhetoric and the stated motivations of the El Paso shooter."

Trump told reporters that his opponents are trying to score political points by linking his comments about immigrants to the El Paso shooting. But he sought to do the same with the Dayton shooter.

"I think my rhetoric brings people together," he said when asked about the impact of his comments.

While investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the Dayton shooting, Betts' apparent Twitter feed offered a window into his psyche and politics.

Betts' name did not appear on the Twitter account called "iamthespookster," but it did include several selfies of him sitting at his kitchen table, drinking a beer, driving home after voting that resemble other known photos of him, right down to a distinctive tattoo on his left bicep.

The Associated Press and organizations including the Anti-Defamation League took screenshots of some of the feed before it was taken down by Twitter. Other parts could be retrieved on internet archive sites.

Dayton police have not said how Betts' online comments may factor into the investigation. They have said they are looking into Betts' apparent fascination with guns, violence and mass shootings.

"We're aware he had social media," Dayton police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said. She would not elaborate.

The Twitter account, which dated to 2013, had a little over 500 followers but had issued nearly 10,000 tweets. And it was highly active up until the hours before the early Sunday shooting.

The account frequently reposted far-left and anti-Trump memes, including such phrases as "Make Racists Afraid Again" and "Kill All Fascists." The user retweeted memes that compared immigrant detention centers to concentration camps. Another retweet included a photo that suggested slashing the tires of Border Patrol agents.

On the night of the 2016 presidential election, a post responded to a Twitter hashtag asking to sum up the election in three words. It read: "This is bad." In June, the account tweeted "I want socialism, and I'll not wait for the idiots to finally come around to understanding."

When another Twitter user last month posted the question "martyr or villain?" with an article about a man killed in July in an attack on an ICE detention facility, the account replied "Martyr."

In reply to a March post from another user proposing "3 Guilt Free Ways to Kill Fascists," the account replied "Hammer, brick, gun." Several posts reflected a fascination with firearms, retweeting photos of assault-style rifles with comments such as "awesome."

Last December, shortly before Christmas, the account wrote: "This is America: Guns on every corner, guns in every house, no freedom but that to kill."

 

Associated Press

 

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