US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Washington  — US President Donald Trump on Monday proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty in response to mass shootings over the weekend that killed 29 people in Texas and Ohio.

The man arrested for killing 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, reportedly had racist motives and Trump said Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy”. Trump did not directly address accusations that his own anti-immigrant and racially charged comments have contributed to a rise in racial tensions.

“These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” he said in remarks at the White House. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

On Saturday, a gunman killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and several Mexican citizens were among those killed. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people. Dozens also were wounded in the attacks.

Trump, who has been accused of not doing enough to tackle extremist groups, said he was directing the department of justice to investigate domestic terrorism, and propose legislation to ensure that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty.

He also said the country needs to reform mental health laws to identify disturbed people as well as work with social media companies to detect possible mass shooters.

“We must make sure those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process,” Trump said.

Background checks

Trump had earlier on Monday called for “strong background checks” on gun buyers but in his comments at the White House he gave no details on what he would push for, and it was not the central part of his message.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said.

Trump has previously called for background checks but then backed away, apparently reluctant to get into a fight with the powerful National Rifle Association.

Trump also said on Monday that it was time to stop glorifying violence in society, and pointed to “gruesome and grisly” video games. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

Democrats, who have long pushed for greater gun control, said Trump was indirectly to blame for the attack in Texas, with some drawing connections between his rhetoric to a resurgence in nationalism and xenophobic sentiment.

Trump began his presidential campaign in 2015 by characterising Mexican immigrants as “rapists and drug smugglers” and likened immigrants coming across the southern US border to an “invasion”.

Police in El Paso cited a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto posted on the 8chan site shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect, Patrick Crusius, who drove to the city from his home near Dallas, as evidence that the bloodshed was racially motivated. Crusius was in custody on Monday, charged with capital murder.

The suspect in Dayton, Connor Betts, was killed by police after opening fire in an entertainment district. A motive in the that case not immediately evident.

Reuters