Mass Shootings In El Paso And Dayton Reignite Calls For Gun Control
“I don’t understand the mind-set that you can’t talk about what happened because somehow it is disrespectful to the victims. I think what is disrespectful to the victims is to ignore why it happened. There are going to be 20 funerals in this community. We absolutely have to talk about why.”
Mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio took at least 31 lives within the span of 24 hours last weekend, rattling the nation and redirecting the public conversation to gun control, mental illness, and President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.
22 people were killed in what the FBI has deemed a “domestic terror attack” in El Paso on Saturday, with authorities connecting 21-year old suspect Patrick Crusius to a white nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto posted on 8chan, a site the Anti-Defamation League said in April serves “as round-the-clock white supremacist rallies.” Critics argue that Crusius’ manifesto, which refers to hispanic immigration to the US as an invasion, mirrors Trump’s rhetoric.
Thirteen hours later, a shooter killed nine people in downtown Dayton, Ohio before being killed by police. While his motives are less clear, numerous people who knew the suspect spoke of his disturbing behavior, including making “kill-lists” and “rape-lists” in high school that put him under the scrutiny of authorities. Alternatively to Crusius, he tweeted leftist political views, and “liked” several Twitter posts about the El Paso shooting before committing the massacre in Dayton.
Three days before the shooting in El Paso, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi wrote a New York Times op-ed warning of the alarming uptrend in white nationalist hate violence. Figliuzzi cites President Trump’s racist and divisive statements, such as telling four minority congresswomen to go back to the “crime-infested places they came from,” as a contributor in the uptake in white nationalist hate crime:
“Yes, President Trump has fallen short of calling for violence against minorities and immigrants. And yes, he condemned racist violence and white supremacy on Monday. But he has yet to apologize for painting people of color as outsiders and invaders, for calling for them to be sent back to where they came from, and for asserting that no humans would want to live in certain American cities. As a consequence, he has given license to those who feel compelled to eradicate what Mr. Trump himself has called an infestation.”
In 2017 and 2018 the FBI made more arrests connected to domestic terrorism, which includes white supremacist groups and similar ideologies, than international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State, according to Figliuzzi.
In Crusius’ manifesto, the young man praised the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, a white supremacist attack that killed 51 Muslim people attending Mosque. Both the El Paso and Christchurch killers were adherents to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that global elites are intentionally replacing white majority countries with mass migration from non-White regions.
Shortly before last week’s mass shootings, the FBI identified fringe conspiracy theories as a national security threat.
Trump’s Role In Exacerbating Racial Tensions
“In the past 3 weeks, Trump has attacked 4 Congresswomen of color, embraced a 13 second nativist chant & said they were “incredible patriots,” retweeted anti-immigrant extremist Katie Hopkins 3 weekends in a row, attacked Elijah Cummings & Baltimore. Just the past 3 weeks,” tweeted journalist Wajahat Ali, who blames Trump for the surge in racist violence.
Ali’s assertion is supported by a recent analysis by the Washington Post, which shows that in the 2016 election, counties where Trump hosted a campaign rally saw a 226% increase in hate violence compared to similar counties that did not.
Crusius’ manifesto, which called his hispanic targets part of an “invasion,” also matched the language of the president’s campaign. Trump blamed the internet and social media for “racist hate” when condemning the El Paso massacre on Monday, but his campaign has referred to immigration as an “invasion” in over 2,000 Facebook ads this year.
Cause Of US’s Gun Violence Epidemic
While President Trump condemned white supremacy on Monday, he placed more focus on mental health issues and violent video games than the role of gun control in the epidemic.
“We have done much more than most administrations … this is also a mental illness problem,” Trump said.
The president spoke of “red-flag laws” that would seek to prevent disturbed individuals like the Dayton shooter from acquiring a firearm, but analysts say such measures alone would not be enough.
Critics argue that the US’ gun epidemic cannot be separated from its status of having the highest per-capita rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, with three hundred and ninety-three million civilian owned firearms in the country. As the New Yorker’s Michael Luo states, “a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, twice as much as the second-highest nation, Yemen.”
In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found Americans to be ten times more likely to die as a result of gun violence than citizens of other wealthy countries, disproving the argument that mental health or video game use is behind the crisis. Violent video games are openly available in Europe and Japan, and there are roughly similar rates of mental illness around the world, but the US is singular in its rate of gun violence among developed countries.
“Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing,” American Psychology Association president Rosie Phillips Davis said in a statement. “Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.
“The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.”
Critics also pointed to the Trump administration’s legal assault on Obamacare, which provides mental health care to millions of Americans, as evidence of his insincerity in addressing mental health issues.
“19 out of 20 murderers have no mental illness diagnosis. 4 out of 5 mass shooters have no mental illness diagnosis, and half showed no signs on a prior, undiagnosed illness,” tweeted Rep. Chris Murphy. “Framing this as just a mental illness problem is a gun industry trope. Period. Stop.”
Trump To Visit El Paso
Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents El Paso, spoke to the New Yorker about America’s gun violence epidemic:
“[U]nless we talk about solutions, it becomes too easy for time to pass and America to move on,” the first-term Democratic congresswoman said. “We can console the community, we can bring people together, we can care for one another, while at the same time talking about the real problems that caused this epidemic.
“I don’t understand the mind-set that you can’t talk about what happened because somehow it is disrespectful to the victims,” Escobar continued. “I think what is disrespectful to the victims is to ignore why it happened. There are going to be 20 funerals in this community. We absolutely have to talk about why.”
President Trump plans on visiting El Paso on Wednesday, despite both Rep. Escobar and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke having told President Trump he is unwelcome in the city.