FBI to investigate 'hate crimes and domestic terrorism' after series of mass shootings, Trump says
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In his first televised remarks since two mass shootings took place in the United States over the weekend, President Donald Trump said the FBI would investigate "hate crimes and domestic terrorism".
Trump condemned weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio as "barbaric" attacks and crimes "against all humanity".
Speaking from the White House of the weekend shootings that left 31 dead and dozens wounded, Trump said that he rejected racism and white supremacist ideology, moving to combat criticism that his divisive rhetoric helps fuel those prone to violence.
"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," Trump said, adding that he had directed the FBI to identify and address domestic terrorism. He also said he wanted the Department of Justice to prioritise the enforcement of the death penalty for hate crimes and mass shootings.
"These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America," he said.
Trump has repeatedly come under fire from critics who accuse him of being reticent in condemning the actions of those influenced by white supremacist ideologies.
Trump had suggested earlier on Twitter that a new background check bill could be paired with his efforts to toughen the nation's immigration system. But he didn't say why he was connecting the issues of gun reform and immigration – both of the weekend shooting suspects were US citizens. Moreover, federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant sentiment as a possible motive for the Saturday massacre in El Paso, Texas.
Trump also said the nation must reform mental health laws to better identify "mentally disturbed individuals".
"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger ... not the gun," he said.
Mental health professionals were quick to point out that the president was erroneously attempting to forge a link between mental health and gun violence, noting that most people with mental health issues are non-violent.
"Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it's up to us to put the facts out there," said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association, as quoted by the New York Times.
Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who conducted data analysis on gun violence from 171 countries, told CBS News that gun ownership per person was the best predictor of a nation's rate of gun deaths.
Connor Betts, 24, was armed with a .223-caliber rifle with magazines capable of holding at least 100 rounds of ammunition when he fired off dozens of shots in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Sunday, Police Chief Richard Biehl said.
Betts was gunned down within 30 seconds of the start of his rampage. Surveillance video shows officers shot Betts at a doorstep, stopping him from entering a bar where some people took cover when the chaos broke out around 1am Sunday.
Officials said 27 more people were treated for gunshots or other injuries suffered while fleeing, and at least 15 of those have been released. Several more were in serious or critical condition, hospital officials said.
Betts' 22-year-old sister Megan was the youngest of the nine fatalities. Police identified the others as Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.
Former high school classmates said that Betts threatened other students and was suspended for compiling a "hit list" of those he wanted to kill and a "rape list" of girls he wanted to sexually assault.
The Ohio shooting came just hours after a young man opened fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, shopping area, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured.
Two more El Paso victims died of their wounds on Monday, bringing the weekend's death toll to 31.
Less than a week earlier, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California on July 28.
The shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the US, according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database, which tracks homicides in which four or more people were killed, not including the offender.
The 20 mass killings in the United States so far this year that preceded this weekend's killings claimed 96 lives.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
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