Politics

In Wake of 2 Mass Shootings, Dems Urge Congress to Act

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is calling on Congress to come back in session to address gun reform legislation and on President Donald Trump to set “a higher standard” in his rhetoric in the wake of two mass shootings this weekend.

Barely half a day after a gunman in El Paso, Texas killed 20 people and left another 26 wounded, another shooter in Dayton fatally shot nine people and left another 27 wounded.

And within hours of that mass shooting, the White House postponed a planned trip today to Youngstown by Ivanka Trump, adviser to the president and his daughter, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson for events related to the new federal Opportunity Zone program.

Carson and Trump “join Ohioans and people across the country in mourning those impacted by the horrific events that unfolded in Dayton,” said Jessica Ditto, White House deputy communications director.

“Police and first responders must be able to allocate all available resources to assist the investigation and support the victims and families,” she continued. “Secretary Carson and Ivanka expressed their condolences and support to [U.S. Sen. Rob] Portman and let him know that the event will be rescheduled at a future date.”

Portman and Scott Turner, executive director of the White House Opportunity Zone Revitalization Council, were scheduled to join Trump and Carson at a series of events that included an luncheon hosted by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber where it planned to unveil an Opportunity Zone prospectus for the region.

The chamber, “after some thought,” said a spokeswoman, decided to move forward with today’s luncheon and press event outlining the prospectus. The White House said it would reschedule the visit by Trump and Carson in the weeks ahead.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, was among Democratic presidential candidates who commented on the shooting, both via an emailed statement and during television appearances Sunday morning including on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC. He also headed to Dayton to meet with Mayor Nan Whaley.

In a statement issued by his presidential campaign, Ryan lamented that mass shootings “have become the norm” in America. He called on Congress to end its August recess and “take up a package of legislation meant to stop these acts of horror and other acts of gun violence” that affect all Americans.

“We can’t continue to offer up the same condolences again and again with no action to protect our communities,” he said.

On Fox News and MSNBC, Ryan specifically called on the Senate to pass the background check bill approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year – “a basic step that 90% of the American people support” — and further called for renewing the assault weapons ban.

“Republicans need to get their s— together and stop pandering to” the National Rifle Association, he said bluntly on MSNBC.

Institutions such as shopping centers and churches are becoming the backdrops for these incidents, while children are afraid to go to school and parents are afraid to let them go, he said on Fox.

Ryan also took aim at Trump for his rhetoric around issues such as immigration and race. The environment that Trump has created in the United States, in which an individual was motivated to drive 10 hours to “kill Mexicans” in El Paso, Texas, is “sickening,” Ryan said.

“The president of the United States has to set a higher standard and he’s not,” he said.

A manifesto reportedly published online by the alleged El Paso shooter expressed hatred for Hispanics and contained rhetoric “that could have come out of a Donald Trump rally,” he said. He called on Trump to “stop being so divisive” and “tipping his hat to the white nationalists.”

“The environment around anti-immigration [and] the race issues that are so polarizing today, the president throws gasoline on it,” he remarked. “It has to stop.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who also is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, shared similar sentiments during a fundraiser in San Diego. As president, he would ensure that the types of weapons being used in these incidents could no longer be purchased and that magazine capabilities would be limited.

He also said the country needed to not only address the guns that are being used in these shootings but also the hate that is fueling them. “Extreme ideologies such as white nationalism are now taking root” in the country, he warned.

Continuing, he referred to Trump’s comments following the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that there were “very fine people on both sides.” He also pointed to Trump’s comments referring to people who were crossing the U.S. border with Mexico as animals.

“You know what, the president’s words have meaning – no matter who he or she is. They are the face of America,” he said.

Hours after the Dayton shooting, which took place shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, Gov. Mike DeWine and state Attorney General Dave Yost issued statements praising first responders at the scene, expressing their condolences and pledging state resources to assist in the investigation and help victims.

“Fran and I are absolutely heartbroken over the horrible attack that occurred this morning in Dayton. We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families,” DeWine said.

Other elected officials weighed in as well.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on CNN called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the Senate back into session Monday to pass the background check bill and send it to Trump for his signature. Brown also visited Dayton on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, Brown issued a statement pledging his office’s support to the Dayton community. He said that he and his wife were “filled with sadness for the victims and their families” and were grateful for the police officers and medical professionals on the scene.

“We are also angry — angry that shooting after shooting, politicians in Washington and Columbus refuse to pass sensible gun-safety laws to protect our communities,” he said. “We are still learning about the attack in Dayton and we don’t know exactly what, if anything, could have prevented this specific tragedy. But we know thoughts and prayers are not enough, we have a responsibility to act.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, cited the attack on former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who left Congress following injuries from a shooting in 2011, and called on McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to address the issue.

“The days of the NRA controlling Congress and writing our gun laws must end,” Sanders said.

Portman said in a statement issued by his office that he went to bed Saturday night “with a heavy heart because of El Paso and woke up to the tragic news” of the Dayton shooting.

“These senseless acts of violence must stop. While we are still learning more about the details of this tragedy in Montgomery County, we are praying for the victims and their families and thank the officers who responded so quickly and bravely,” he said. “I am talking to local leaders and law enforcement officials this morning. First and foremost, let’s get all the facts and help the community heal.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said in a statement on Twitter Saturday that the country needs to focus on the U.S. mental health system “and look at its shortcomings” and also thanked first responders.

Johnson called America “the greatest country in the world” and Ohio “the greatest state.” The Dayton shooting “tells us we are not immune from evil people doing evil things,” he continued, again alluding to mental health issues.

“This is clearly an act of domestic terrorism, designed to frighten Americans and cause us to lose confidence in the values and freedoms we treasure.” he said. “But, it’s also another clear illustration that we have a serious mental health issue in America — how else could a person indiscriminately kill innocent people?”

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16 Pa., offered a statement via Twitter.

“Americans across our country are grieving with the families and loved ones of those killed this weekend in El Paso and Dayton. I am praying for the recovery of injured survivors and for an end to these senseless and tragic acts of violence,” he wrote.

Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, said she was “heartbroken” when she learned of the Dayton shooting.

“This tragedy hits far too close to home,” she remarked. “Our hearts and prayers go out to every parent, sibling, family member and friend grieving today because of another senseless act of violence. I hope they may find some solace in knowing we stand in solidarity with them.”

She also directed people to a fund established by The Dayton Foundation to help people impacted by the shooting.

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, echoed calls for legislative action. He referred to “the epidemic of gun violence” as “nothing less than a public health emergency.” Republicans in Washington and Columbus we unwilling to act because they are “in thrall” to gun rights groups that support their campaigns and are unwilling “to call out the rhetoric that incites domestic terrorists” such as the alleged El Paso shooter. Many solutions being offered are feasible and enjoy popular support in Ohio, he said.

“The governor said this afternoon we should discuss solutions at another time. That we must wait, again. No, the time to discuss solutions is long past due,” he said. “This weekend’s gun violence victims and their grieving families deserved solutions after Sandy Hook, after Las Vegas, after Pittsburgh, after Parkland. No more waiting, Governor. Not a day longer. Not one more incident should pass.”

Pictured: Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio were killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.