The FBI is warning of the potential for copycat attacks by domestic violent extremists after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio within 13 hours of each other left at least 31 people dead and 53 injured, in what President Donald Trump called “an attack upon our nation, and a crime against all of humanity.”
“In one voice, our country must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said from the White House on Monday morning. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
Expanding on his earlier tweets, Trump called for new laws on guns and mental health, as well as “cultural change” aimed at extremist corners of the internet and at what he called the glorification of violence in American culture.
“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation and a crime against all of humanity,” Trump told reporters gathered at the White House.
Trump condemned the “evil attacks,” referring in particular to the shooter in El Paso as someone “consumed by racist hate.” At the end of the speech, Trump mistakenly referenced Toledo, Ohio, rather than Dayton, where the second shooting this weekend took place.
On the issue of guns, Trump endorsed laws providing for extreme risk-protection orders, by which family members, law enforcement or others can ask a court to temporarily take away firearms from people they believe pose a serious risk to themselves or the community.
More than a dozen states have red-flag laws, as they are known, and the idea has gained traction in conservative circles as a response to the recent spate of mass shootings. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have each introduced bills that would give grants to states that enact legislation for extreme risk-protection orders, while Representative Lucy McBath, D-Ga., has introduced a plan to create federal red-flag laws.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday said he and Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., will soon introduce a bill to create a federal grant program aimed at encouraging states to adopt red-flag laws. The grants in the proposal would go to law enforcement agencies to help them bring on mental health professionals who can help determine when to file the petitions.
Graham said in a statement that he has talked with Trump about the plan and that the president “seems very supportive” of the idea.
“Many of these shootings involved individuals who showed signs of violent behavior that are either ignored or not followed up,” Graham said. “State red-flag laws will provide the tools for law enforcement to do something about many of these situations before it’s too late.”
In line with the call for red-flag laws, Trump also suggested reforms to mental health laws so people who show signs of committing violence can either get treatment or potentially be involuntarily confined. The president also said he has directed the Justice Department to draft legislation that would give the death penalty to people who commit hate crimes and mass murders.
But much of Trump’s speech was focused on topics other than gun control, touching on issues ranging from social media to “gruesome and grisly” video games.
Trump said he has directed the Justice Department to work with state, local and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop methods of identifying people who might commit mass shootings before they strike. He lamented that the internet, and social media in particular, has made it easier for people to find communities where they can become radicalized.
“The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored,” Trump said.
He also pinned blame on “a culture that celebrates violence,” placing particular focus on violent video games. Trump did not give a proposal to stop this problem, offering only that people must work to “stop or substantially reduce” it.
“Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. That’s what we have to do,” Trump said.
The El Paso, Texas, shooting that killed 22 people at a crowded Walmart shopping center is being handled as a domestic terrorism case by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell.
The suspected shooter is said to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto online shortly before driving more than 600 miles from Allen, Texas, to the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where a Walmart and Sam’s Club are located just minutes away from the Texas-Mexico border.
Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, was booked into the El Paso County Jail on a capital murder charge on Sunday. Crusius, of Allen, was listed in jail records as a white male, 6 feet tall and weighing 220 pounds with brown hair and eyes.
An application for an appointed attorney has been filed for Crusius, but no bond hearing has been set, court records show.
Authorities said they will pursue federal hate crime and firearm charges against him and will seek the death penalty.
Just 13 hours after the bloodshed in El Paso, a second lone gunman opened fire in a popular downtown entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, at about 1:07 a.m. Nine people were killed before the gunman, who was wearing a mask and bulletproof vest, was fatally shot by police.
The alleged shooter’s sister is among the dead, which also includes five men and three women.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said at a news conference on Monday that the shooter had a maximum of 250 rounds in his possession, and that at least 41 spent shell casings from the suspect have been recovered.
The FBI is assisting local authorities in El Paso and Dayton, and asked the public to be on the lookout for violent extremists that could possibly become “inspired” by the shootings.
“The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence,” the agency said in a statement. “The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online.”