President Trump reacts to rash of mass shootings
In a one-week period there were four prominent shootings across the United States: one each in Mississippi, California, Texas, and Ohio. After the recent mass shootings, President Donald Trump addressed the nation on Monday and mentioned only the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. which left 31 dead. In his speech he referred to the shooter in El Paso as “a wicked man,” and the shooter in Dayton as “a twisted monster.”
“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation, and a crime against all of humanity,” said Trump. “We are outraged and sickened by this monstrous evil, the cruelty, the hatred, the malice, the bloodshed, and the terror. Our hearts are shattered for every family whose parents, children, husbands and wives were ripped from their arms and their lives. America weeps for the fallen. We are a loving nation, and our children are entitled to grow up in a just, peaceful, and loving society. Together we lock arms to shoulder the grief. We ask God in Heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer, and we vow to act with urgent resolve.”
He added, “The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online, consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the mind, and devours the soul. We have asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism, whatever they need. We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalized, disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”
According to the Souther Poverty Law Center, the United States had 1,020 hate groups in 2018. As of today, there are 21 hate groups listed for Louisiana alone. These groups include: The Daily Stormer (Neo-Nazi), New Black Panther Party (Black Nationalist), The Right Stuff (White Nationalist), and Ruth Institute (anti-LGBT).
President Trump continued: “In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another, over and over again, decade after decade.”
The Columbine School massacre happened April 6, 1999. In the 20 years since, there have been 87 mass shootings. The FBI defines mass shootings as occurring in a public place, a single attack where at least four people have died as a result. By this definition, the Lafayette shooting of 2015 is not classified as a mass shooting. If the definition were changed to include mass shootings with at least one victim, the number of occurrences would be far greater. While not defined as a mass shooting, the shoot-out which occurred in Ville Platte between the Y-Not Stop and Domino’s on July 28 is a part of the increasing reality of gun violence across the counrty. According to an article titled “America’s Gun Culture in Charts,” posted by the BBC, “The rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm [in the U.S.] is the highest in the developed world. There were almost 11,000 deaths as a result of murder or manslaughter involving a firearm in 2017.”
“We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless,” continued Trump. “We can and will stop this evil contagion. In that task, we must honor the sacred memory of those we have lost by acting as one people. Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real, bipartisan solutions. We have to do that in a bipartisan manner. That will truly make America safer and better for all. First, we must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs. I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local state and federal agencies, as well as social media companies to detect mass shooters before they strike.
“Second, we must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately. Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. That’s what we have to do.”
The American Psychological Association published an article by Craig A. Anderson, PhD called “Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions.” Anderson says of the purported link between video games and violence, “High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery).”
Further, Anderson states, “Cartoonish and fantasy violence is often perceived (incorrectly) by parents and public policy makers as safe even for children. However, experimental studies with college students have consistently found increased aggression after exposure to clearly unrealistic and fantasy violent video games. Indeed, at least one recent study found significant increases in aggression by college students after playing E-rated (suitable for everyone) violent video games.”
Anderson theorizes, “Repeated media violence exposure increases aggression across the lifespan because of several related factors. 1. It creates more positive attitudes, beliefs, and expectations regarding use of aggressive solutions. 2. It creates aggressive behavioral scripts and makes them more cognitively accessible. 3. It decreases the accessibility of nonviolent scripts. 4. It decreases the normal negative emotional reactions to conflict, aggression, and violence.”
Anderson says there are unanswered questions pertaining to the link between video games and violence. He points out there are gaps in studies, saying, “One especially large gap is the lack of longitudinal studies testing the link between habitual violent video game exposure and later aggression, while controlling for earlier levels of aggression and other risk factors. There are such studies focusing on television violence but none on video games. There are theoretical reasons to believe that violent video game effects may prove larger, primarily because of the active and repetitive learning aspects of video games. However, this is a very difficult question to investigate, especially with experimental designs.” He suggests more research is needed.
Trump continued in his speech: “Third, we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement. Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Regarding a common misconception that mental illness is to blame for mass shootings, a report titled “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms” by Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD and published by the National Center for Health Statistics, says they have found “fewer than 5% of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.” The report does, however, point out “alcohol and drug use increase the risk of violent crime by as much as seven-fold, even among persons with no history of mental illness—a concerning statistic in the face of recent legislation that allows persons in certain U.S. states to bring loaded handguns into bars and nightclubs.”
Some politicians took issue with Trump linking mass shootings to mental illness. 2020 presidential candidate Senator Corey Booker (D. New Jersey), tweeted after Trump’s speech: “White supremacy is not a mental illness, and guns are a tool that white supremacists use to fulfill their hate.”
Further in Trump’s speech, he said, “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.”
A Red Flag Law allows police or family members to petition a state court to remove firearms from someone who is deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have such laws, which vary from state to state. According to Wikipedia.org, “In Connecticut, some 764 ‘imminent risk’ gun seizures were served between October 1999 and July 2013, according to a 2014 study in the Connecticut Law Review. In Maryland, the courts reviewed 302 petitions for a gun removal order in the first three months of the state’s law; the petition was granted in 148 cases (about half the time).” Louisiana does not have a Red Flag Law. Earlier this year, a Louisiana House committee rejected HB 483, a Red Flag Law, because they argued it violated the 2nd Amendment.
Trump continued: “Today, I’m also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay. These are just a few of the areas of cooperation that we can pursue. I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference. Republicans and Democrats have proven that we can join together in a bipartisan fashion to address this plague. Last year we enacted the Stop School Violence and Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act into law, providing grants to improve school safety and strengthening critical background checks for firearm purchases. At my direction, the Department of Justice banned bump stocks. Last year, we prosecuted a record number of firearms offenses. But there is so much more that we have to do.” The Fix NICS Act of 2017 is a federal law that applies to penalties to government agencies for not reporting to NICS.
“Now is the time,” continued Trump, “to set destructive partisanship aside--so destructive--and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love. Our future is in our control. America will rise to the challenge. We always have, and always will, win. The choice is ours and ours alone. It is not up to mentally ill monsters. It is up to us. If we are able to pass great legislation after all of these years, we will ensure that those who were attacked will not have died in vein.” He added, “May God bless the victims and their families. May God bless America.”
J. Douglas Deshotel, Bishop of Lafayette, released a statement concerning the rash of shootings across the country: “All of us are shocked by the senseless violence, loss of life and evil that took place in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this weekend. Twenty-nine innocent people, men, women, children and senior citizens were brutally murdered. Ordinary people like us, shopping for back to school supplies or enjoying an evening with friends were gunned down in an unspeakably evil act.
“Our minds cannot understand why. We try to put logic to an illogical act, reason to an irrational taking of innocent life. How can such evil come from the human heart? I call all people of good will to join me in prayer for the happy repose of the souls of those innocent victims and their families who carry such a heavy cross. May a loving God who created them gather them into His warm embrace. I ask all to pray that our country return to a reverence and respect for the sacredness of all human life. Let us also pray in thanksgiving for all the law enforcement personnel and first responders who acted so swiftly and put their lives on the line to save others. No greater love exists than to lay down one’s life for another.”