This weekend, America was under attack. It wasn’t an invader or foreign force that murdered 31 people in two mass shootings just 13 hours apart. The attack was from two white male Americans, exercising their Second Amendment right to take away others’ right to live.
Early Sunday morning, in Dayton, Ohio, 24-year-old Connor Betts opened fire in the city’s entertainment district. He was armed with a high-capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines, killing nine people and injuring 27 others.
While the motive of the Dayton attack is still unknown, the earlier attack, in El Paso, Texas, was a planned massacre that targeted Hispanic people. Patrick Crusius, 21, traveled more than 600 miles to a Walmart and opened fire with an AK-47-style assault rifle. He killed 22 people, including two who died on Monday. Among the dead were six Mexican nationals. Federal law enforcement is investigating the incident as domestic terrorism.
Before the attack, Crusius uploaded a white supremacist manifesto in which he explains that the motivation of the attack is a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” — echoing language that President Donald Trump has repeated over and over again.
It’s tempting to call the horror in El Paso “senseless,” but it actually makes sense when considering the president’s consistent rhetoric on immigration and his demonization of people crossing the border. Couple that with his coddling of white nationalists and the bloodshed that El Paso experienced might almost be considered inevitable.
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When Trump responded Monday morning, he had an opportunity to show a hint of humility — even humanity — and recognize the direct contribution of his behavior to the radicalization of young white men such as the shooter in El Paso. He didn’t.
If the attack was carried by a foreign national who targeted Americans, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which Congress and the White House would not come together to respond — with swiftness and with no equivocation. But the enemy is us — a country stewing with hate that has done nothing in the face of an epidemic of mass shootings, not even the most modest gun control measures. The list of necessary controls, including universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines, is familiar, but we must start with reinstating the federal assault weapons ban.
From 1994 to 2003, the sale and manufacturing of new assault weapons was banned. Research suggests that the ban reduced the number of fatalities in mass shootings. It was allowed to expire in 2004. The ban should be renewed today.
Not preventing a shooting but reducing the number of fatalities is a depressing goal to work toward. But in 2019, this is where America is. Unfortunately, lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have no interest in innocent human lives. In February, the House of Representatives passed a universal background check bill. McConnell didn’t give it a vote in the Senate.
If Republican lawmakers are comfortable with having blood on their hands as the cost for campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, the least they can do is be forced to take a vote on this and other commonsense legislation — and then show their bloody palms to the nation.