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Trump urges changes to mental health laws after weekend shootings

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
President Donald Trump makes a statement at the White House as Vice President Mike Pence looks on in response to two separate weekend mass shooting incidents on Monday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
President Donald Trump makes a statement at the White House as Vice President Mike Pence looks on in response to two separate weekend mass shooting incidents on Monday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 5 (UPI) -- After a violent weekend during which more than 80 people were shot in two separate attacks, President Donald Trump reacted Monday by condemning racism, calling for changes to mental health laws and saying he's open to all ideas that "will actually work."

In a speech that was broadcast nationally, Trump laid out a four-pronged approach to countering what he called "barbaric slaughters" that have become commonplace in the United States.

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"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated," he said. "Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."

First, Trump said law enforcement must "shine a light on the dark recesses of the Internet and stop mass murders before they start." Social media and websites, he said, can "radicalize disturbed minds" and the president said he wants shooters caught before they strike.

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He also called for cultural change, saying too many troubled youths are surrounded by video games that glorify gun violence, and urged an immediate reduction in a "culture of violence."

"It has to begin immediately," Trump said. "Cultural change is hard."

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Third, Trump called for major reforms in mental health laws, saying Americans should have access to treatment and, if necessary, disturbed individuals should receive "involuntary confinement." Those who pose a grave risk to society, he said, shouldn't have access to firearms -- and their guns "can be taken away through rapid due process."

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"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," he said. "I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference."

Finally, he called for new laws to apply capital punishment to killers and those who commit hate crimes, "without years of needless delay."

Trump made no mention of a tweet he made earlier Monday, which suggested merging immigration reform and "strong" laws for firearm background checks, and he did not take questions.

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"We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain," he tweeted. "We can never forget them, and those many who came before them.

"Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!"

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Twenty people were killed Saturday in a shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, which is being investigated as a hate crime and a domestic terrorism case. Another two people injured in the shooting died from their injuries Monday.

Nine people were killed a day later by a gunman in Dayton, Ohio. That shooter was immediately killed by police.

Trump has taken action after past shootings -- by banning bump stocks after the 2017 attack in Las Vegas killed 58. He's also defended a proposal to arm some teachers in schools, voiced support for institutionalizing the mentally ill and repeatedly supported the National Rifle Association by speaking at annual conferences.

Some Democratic lawmakers have called for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to cancel the Senate's scheduled August recess so lawmakers can address gun control. They have asked the chamber to take up a universal background check bill the House passed earlier this year.

"We have a responsibility to the people we serve to act," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Senate Republicans "must stop their outrageous obstruction and join the House to put an end to the horror and bloodshed that gun violence inflicts every day in America."

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Some GOP lawmakers have argued that stronger background checks and bans won't stop most shooting attacks.

"We stand with law enforcement as they continue working to keep Americans safe and bring justice," McConnell tweeted Sunday.

Democratic presidential candidate and former El Paso, Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke blamed Trump for inciting racial violence.

"He stokes racism. He incites violence. We shouldn't be asking if there's anything he can do or if he's responsible for this when we know the answer," O'Rourke tweeted Sunday.

Former FBI Director James Comey accused Trump of using racism to fuel his re-election campaign. Comey, who was fired by Trump in 2017, said the FBI has a "burgeoning caseload of hate crimes and white supremacist investigations" and called on Trump to "show us you believe" in American ideals.

"Every American president, knowing what lies deep within our country, bears a unique responsibility to say loudly and consistently that white supremacy is illegitimate, that encouraging a politics of racial resentment can spawn violence, and that violence aimed at people by virtue of their skin color is terrorism," Comey wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times Sunday.

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