“We vow to act with urgent resolve,” Donald Trump announced, with Vice President Mike Pence at his side, to combat a rising scourge of violence and shootings. Trump declared that the FBI would be given any resources it needs to identify potential spree shooters and other domestic-terror operators, and called for a rethinking of involuntary commitment for the mentally ill. ‘
The biggest takeaway will likely be Trump’s unequivocal denunciation of “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” the topics in the hate-filled manifesto of one of the shooters:
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said, adding that he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America,” he said. …
President Donald Trump on Monday condemned weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio as “barbaric” attacks and crimes “against all humanity” as he called for bipartisan cooperation to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.
Trump said he wants legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users, but he provided scant details and has reneged on previous promises after mass shootings.
Actually, the biggest initial takeaway was a mistake Trump made in identifying the location of one shooting. Instead of Dayton, Trump put it in Toledo, generating some headscratching from journalists on Twitter:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 5, 2019
Trump said, "may God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo," but the shooting happened in Dayton, Ohio.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 5, 2019
— Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) August 5, 2019
As Jon Ralston points out, though, Trump’s not alone in misplacing the shootings:
Yes, Trump said the wrong city (Toledo), which is so Trump. But don't forget: Joe Biden referred to shootings in Houston and Michigan yesterday.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) August 5, 2019
To get back to the substance of the speech, Trump did at least attempt to move the ball forward. He wisely dropped the linkage between enhanced background checks and immigration reform, but also appeared to signal that the House-passed bill that contains the former was a non-starter. CBS’ Steven Portnoy heard from his White House sources that Trump would veto the bill if it ever passed the Senate, which is already unlikely. Trump made that somewhat clear in an aside about passing legislation that “would actually work” to reduce gun violence, at least an implicit slap at HR8.
Trump appeared to shift more decisively in expanding and expediting the use of the death penalty in such cases, as well as providing a lot more focus on mental health issues. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger,” Trump said, “not the gun.” True enough, but in endorsing “involuntary confinement,” Trump will also have to find the resources for facilities in which to contain those mentally ill people with potentially violent tendencies. Since the sweeping reforms of the 1970s, we have shut down most of the capacity for long-term confinement in the US. Creating new capacity will be very, very expensive as well as opening up the debate between individual liberty and community safety in dealing with mental illness.
Even more controversially, Trump took aim at video games and the Internet. Will these shootings avoid Second Amendment issues by targeting the First Amendment? There has already been a lot of pressure on Internet providers to curate their content, which has led to speech codes and accusations of political bias by the Big Tech giants. Trump’s threat to go after the same people might backfire with Trump’s base, who already see themselves as under siege on line.
Overall, though, the speech was a well-written and broad response to hatred and bigotry. It’s the next steps that will reveal what direction the administration will take on these matters … or if there are any next steps at all.