Saturday, October 19, 2019 | ePaper
Trump visits shooting victims in Ohio as protesters shout, â€˜Do somethingâ€™
Reuters, Dayton :
Protesters gather around a baby Trump balloon to voice their rally against gun violence and a visit from U.S. President Donald Trump following a mass shooting in Dayton.
U.S. President Donald Trump met in Ohio on Wednesday with victims and first responders from one of last weekend's two deadly mass shootings, while protesters chanting "Do Something!" and "You are why" accused him of inflaming tensions with anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric.
Trump visited Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, where the wounded were treated after nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early on Sunday, one of two mass shootings 13 hours apart that shocked the country.
Crowds of protesters outside the hospital and in downtown Dayton held signs reading, "Hate not welcome here," and "Stop this terror."
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on Twitter that Trump stopped by hospital rooms and met with patients while thanking the medical staff for their work.
"You had God watching. I want you to know we're with you all the way," she quoted Trump as saying at the hospital.
Later in the day, Trump will visit the Texas city of El Paso, on the border with Mexico, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart store on Saturday by a 21-year-old man who had posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online.
The back-to-back massacres have reopened the national debate over gun safety.
As he left the White House, Trump said he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and make sure mentally ill people did not carry guns. He predicted congressional support for those two measures but not for banning assault rifles.
"I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment," Trump told reporters at the White House. "But I will certainly bring that up ... There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks."
In Dayton, Trump was greeted at the airport by a bipartisan group of state and local officials, including Democratic Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
They told reporters afterward that they urged Trump to call on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back from its summer recess to work on a House-passed bill that expands background checks on gun buyers.
Brown said he asked Trump to promise he would sign that bill. "He only said that we will get things done," Brown said, adding the president had been "comforting" to the victims.
Whaley said she agreed with Trump's decision not to visit the district where the shooting occurred given the high emotions in the community.
"A lot of people that own businesses in that district are not interested in the president being there," she told reporters. "A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive and that's the last thing we need in Dayton."
Democrats say Trump's anti-immigrant, racially charged language at rallies and on Twitter has done much to fan racist, white nationalist sentiments, creating a political climate more conducive to hate-based violence.
The El Paso massacre is being investigated as a hate crime and the FBI said the Dayton shooter had explored violent ideologies.