- President Donald Trump on Monday called for “bipartisan solutions” to combat mass violence after two shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, claimed 29 lives over the weekend.
- On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more in an incident that is being investigated as domestic terrorism. Early Sunday morning, a different gunman opened fire in Dayton.
- In his remarks, Trump blamed numerous factors including video games, mental illness, and racist hate for the shootings, and he called for numerous legislative measures meant to reduce gun violence. Some of those explanations, however, are inconsistent with research into the causes of mass violence.
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President Donald Trump on Monday called for “bipartisan solutions” to combat mass violence following two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that together claimed 31 lives over the weekend.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more in an incident that is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
And in the early hours of Sunday, a man in Dayton killed nine people including, authorities say, his sister and wounded several others in the city’s Oregon District.
In his remarks, Trump blamed numerous factors including video games, mental illness, and racist hate for the shootings, and he called for numerous legislative measures meant to reduce gun violence.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate,” Trump said. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
Trump further accused the internet and video games of feeding into violence, saying “the perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored” and adding that it “includes the gruesome video games that are now commonplace.”
While many have expressed concern that the internet can act as an echo chamber for extremist views, there is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that video games cause mass violence. Research by the psychologist Patrick Markey found that 80% of those who committed a mass shooting didn’t even play video games, and the University of Southern California professor Henry Jenkins has found that “the overwhelming majority of kids who play do not commit antisocial acts,” as The New York Times reported in February 2018.
In his comments, Trump also called for improvements to mental-health treatment and, “when necessary, involuntary confinement” of mentally ill people, saying that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Decades of research, however, thoroughly disprove the claim that mental illness is a major cause of mass violence. A 2016 study from the American Psychiatric Association found that “mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides” and “the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%.”
While many politicians claim that closer surveillance of mentally ill people will prevent more shootings, the authors wrote that such policies would be “extremely low yield, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources,” partly because “perpetrators of mass shootings are unlikely to have a history of involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation.”
Trump suggested numerous actions he believed the federal government should take to reduce mass shootings, calling for collaboration between state and federal agencies to “develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”
The president also endorsed state laws allowing the police to remove guns from people deemed a threat, saying: “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. That is why I have called for red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.”
Trump did not, however, advocate legislation mandating universal federal background checks, a measure with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In February, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.
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