President Trump's campaign supporters argue with protesters outside the doors of Ned Peppers bar, the site of a mass shooting, on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 7 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump's met with victims of the Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, shootings Wednesday as they were greeted with both protests and shows of support.
The Trumps began the day in Dayton, visiting patients at Miami Valley Hospital before traveling to El Paso to meet with victims at the University Medical Center of El Paso in the afternoon. Nine people died Sunday in a shooting outside a bar in Dayton, while 22 others were killed in a shooting at an El Paso Walmart on Saturday.
"You had God watching," Trump told one victim in Dayton, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "I want you to know we're with you all the way."
During the visits, Trump also met with first responders from the two shootings, including Army Pfc. Gelndon Oakley Jr., who El Paso police Chief credited with saving children during the Walmart shooting.
"I just want to thank you," Trump said.
While in Texas, Trump was accompanied by UMC executives Jacob Cintron, Maria Zampini and Henry Gallardo as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and first lady Adair Margo, acting Customs and Border protection Commissioner Mark Morgan and Republican Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, also greeted the Trumps when they arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
Whaley and Brown gave a news conference after the meeting, saying the president was comforting to the victims with whom he spoke. The two lawmakers said they pressed Trump for a ban on assault weapons and stronger background checks for gun purchases.
They said he refused to commit to signing a universal background check bill.
"I'm not holding my breath," Whaley said. "Too often we see inaction, because they're waiting just for time, to forget that nine people died in Dayton because of a gun that shouldn't be legal, frankly."
While in El Paso Trump said the Whaley and Brown "shouldn't be politicking today."
The New York Times reported about 100 people gathered in a field near the hospital to protest Trump. One told the newspaper that Trump's language "throws gasoline on the fire," which leads to violence.
"He feeds on negativity and hate and fear," Jim Madewell said.
Supporters gathered near the airport and pro-Trump signs were attached to recreational vehicles.
In El Paso, health care workers petitioned against Trump's visit while people gathered at a protest in Washington Park where former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke called for universal background checks, the end of the sale of assault weapons and red flag laws to remove firearms from potentially harmful people. Trump supporters also gathered ahead of his arrival, chanting "Trump 2020."
Trump went ahead with the visits despite warnings of protests and critics in both cities. He drew criticism last weekend for what some viewed as a slow response, and again for proposals he made Monday in a national address.
"These are sick people," he said of the perpetrators. "These are people that are really mentally ill, mentally disturbed. It's a mental problem."
Monday, Trump proposed multiple changes as a result of the attacks, including stronger mental health laws to avert future plots among the psychologically ill. He'd also mentioned strengthening firearm background checks.
"I'm looking to do background checks, I think background checks are important," he said. "I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or a sick people."
"We are going to come up with something that's going to be, really, very good. Beyond anything that's been done so far."