Trump urges gun background checks after mass shootings roil nation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday called on lawmakers to pass strong gun background checks after two mass shootings over the weekend killed 29 people and sought to blame the nation’s rising violence and divisions on the media.

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown municipal airport en route to Washington after a weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Trump, who is scheduled to deliver public remarks later on Monday following the attacks, appeared to dismiss accusations following the two shootings in Texas and Ohio that his rhetoric has stoked racial hatred and provoked attacks amid a deepening political divide.

On Saturday, a gunman killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in what authorities said appeared to be a racially-motivated hate crime. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people. Dozens were also wounded in both attacks.

Trump did not directly address accusations by critics about his anti-immigrant and racially charged comments, but in a series of early morning tweets reiterated his accusations of “fake news” and media bias.

“The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country. Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years,” Trump wrote.

The Republican president spoke briefly to reporters on Sunday as he returned to Washington after spending the weekend at his golf resort in New Jersey, telling reporters that “Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”

On Monday, Trump appealed to both political parties and said the victims’ should not “die in vain.” He urged lawmakers to pass legislation requiring stricter screenings for gun buyers and possibly tie it to immigration, a top issue that has fueled his presidency and drawn criticism over his comments about migrants and others.

Congress, however, is adjourned on summer recess with U.S. lawmakers not scheduled to return to Washington until September.

It was not immediately clear what other action Trump planned to take or what remarks he would make later on Monday at the White House, where he is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT).

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” Trump wrote.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for universal background checks for gun buyers, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the chamber in an emergency session to pass the legislation.

Trump could also invoke his power under the Constitution to call back Congress.

Representatives for McConnell, who broke his shoulder in a fall over the weekend, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The shootings have also reverberated onto the campaign trail for next year’s presidential election, as Democrats seeking to regain control of the White House and Senate focused their outrage on Trump.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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