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US must condemn racism and white supremacy, says Trump in wake of mass shootings

Shootings at the weekend in Texas and Ohio left 31 dead and dozens wounded.

President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, at the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, at the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Donald Trump has condemned mass shootings in Texas and Ohio as barbaric crimes “against all humanity” and called for bipartisan co-operation to respond to an epidemic of gun violence.

Mr Trump said he wants legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users but provided scant details and has reneged on previous promises after such shootings.

He blamed video games and mental illness for violence but made no mention of more limits on the sales of actual firearms.

“We vow to act with urgent resolve,” Mr Trump said, speaking from the White House about shootings at the weekend that left 31 dead and dozens wounded.

His scripted remarks came after two days of muted response to the shootings, and included a solitary denunciation of white supremacy, a subject he has been reluctant to criticise.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Mr Trump said, adding that he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism.

“These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America,” he said.

He suggested earlier on Twitter that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system, but did not say how or why he was connecting the issues.

Both shooting suspects were US citizens and federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive for the massacre in El Paso, Texas.

In El Paso, a gunman opened fire on Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season.

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Rene Aguilar and Jackie Flores pray at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso (Andres Leighton/AP)

The attack in the border city killed 22 and wounded more than two dozen, many of them critically.

Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman wearing body armour and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine and injuring at least 26 people.

The attacks came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Mr Trump has frequently sought to tie his immigration priorities – a border wall and transforming the legal immigration system to one that prioritises merit over familial ties – to legislation around which he perceives momentum to be building.

The president offered few specific solutions to address violence, and signalled he would oppose large-scale gun control efforts pushed by Democrats, saying “hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun”.

Mr Trump called for law enforcement and social media companies to do more to combat extremism and spot warning signs of violence online.

He also called for a reduction in the “glorification” of violence in American culture, laws to make it easier to commit those with mental illness and “red flag laws” to separate such individuals from firearms.

Mr Trump directed the Department of Justice to seek and prioritise the enforcement of the death penalty in cases of hate crimes and mass shootings.

PA

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