Dozens of CEOs call on Senate to tackle gun violence: reports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 100 chief executives of some of the nation’s most well-known companies on Thursday called on the U.S. Senate to take action to tackle gun violence, including expanding background checks and strengthening so-called red flag laws, according to media reports.

In a letter to lawmakers, 145 company heads urged meaningful action following a string of mass shootings across the United States that have most recently left communities reeling in Texas, Ohio, Nevada and South Carolina.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the letter to the Republican-led U.S. Senate said, according to the New York Times, which first reported the correspondence.

Those signing the missive include the heads of Gap Inc, Levi Strauss & Co, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. They also included Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Uber Technologies Inc, Twitter Inc, and Amalgamated Bank, among others.

“We are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country,” they said, according to the Times. The Washington Post also reported the letter.

Lawmakers have struggled to address gun violence after the 2012 killing of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut stoked the debate over gun control in America.

More mass shootings followed, including at a church in South Carolina, a music festival in Las Vegas and a high school in Florida. This summer, shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas – including in a Walmart – sparked fresh debate.

Walmart Inc and other stores have since called on patrons not to openly carry firearms in their stores, prompting protests from opponents who object to curbing gun rights.

The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Democrats, quickly took up measures addressing gun violence as lawmakers returned to Washington this week. These include three bills that seek to remove guns from people deemed a risk, ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and prohibit people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors from possessing firearms.

The Senate, led by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, has so far stayed on the sidelines, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looking to the White House for guidance.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators said they wanted to revive a failed 2013 bill to close loopholes in the law requiring gun sale background checks, but it remained unclear whether Trump would support it.

Polls have shown that nearly half of all Americans expect another mass shooting to happen soon in the United States.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump says he will push to close background check loopholes for gun buys

FILE PHOTO: A prospective buyer examines an AR-15 at the "Ready Gunner" gun store In Provo, Utah, U.S. in Provo, Utah, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration would seek to close background check loopholes for gun purchases after Democrats accused him of reversing course on gun control measures.

Trump spoke with the leader of the National Rifle Association lobbying group, Wayne LaPierre, on Tuesday, a White House official said. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said he did not tell LaPierre, whose group strongly opposes increased gun restrictions, that he would avoid pursuing measures on background checks.

Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA in the 2016 presidential race, said he views the number of U.S. gun deaths as a public health emergency and reiterated his belief that people who are mentally ill should not be allowed to buy guns.

“We’re working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks. We can close up the gaps. We can do things that are very good and things that frankly gun owners want to have done,” Trump said.

“We have background checks but there are loopholes in the background checks. And that’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday. They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights,” Trump added later.

On Tuesday, Trump, a Republican, said his administration was engaged in meaningful talks with Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, about gun legislation after gunmen in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people using semi-automatic rifles and high-volume magazines earlier this month.

Congressional aides, however, said the discussions have been low-level and generally unproductive.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

Parkland massacre survivors unveil sweeping U.S. gun-control plan ahead of 2020 election

FILE PHOTO: David Hogg, a student at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of a February mass shooting which left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida, thrusts his fist in the air as he speaks during the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

By Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre on Wednesday released a sweeping gun-control plan that would ban assault-style rifles and take other steps in hopes of halving U.S. firearms deaths and injuries.

The proposal included a measure to register more young voters, and the group’s leaders addressed it to 2020 candidates seeking the presidential nomination, urging them to make gun control a top priority.

“We urge them to take a look at this agenda,” Tyah Amoy-Roberts, a former student who survived the shooting, said in a statement. “We cannot allow mass shootings in grocery stores, churches, shopping malls, and schools to be the new normal.”

The former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have worked to inspire a sense of urgency about gun violence since they started the national campaign “March for Our Lives” after a former student massacred 17 people with an assault rifle at their high school on Feb. 14, 2018.

Their plan comes the same month that saw 31 people killed in back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, within 24 hours.

The steady drumbeat of shootings has provoked limited federal action. Days after the twin massacres, President Donald Trump publicly mulled backing stronger background checks for gun buyers but by this week Congressional Democrats were accusing him of backtracking after a meeting with the National Rifle Association gun lobby.

The NRA and gun-rights supporters say the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution blocks most restrictions on gun ownership. NRA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Parkland student’s plan calls for several hard-line gun control measures, including a national gun buy-back and disposal program, a federal system of gun licensing that requires background checks and annual renewals, and it urges politicians to declare a national emergency around gun violence.

The plan also calls on the government to automatically register all U.S. citizens to vote when they turn 18, a measure that March for Our Lives has pushed in an effort to turn out the youth vote and sway elections to yield tighter gun policies.

March for Our Lives and ally Giffords are planning an Oct. 2 forum for 2020 candidates to discuss gun violence.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Between gun massacres, a routine, deadly seven days of U.S. shootings

FILE PHOTO: A man walks down a street past a handmade sign posted in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A boy accidentally killed by his father during a fishing trip in Montana. A woman dead and her husband behind bars after a single gunshot in a Dallas hotel room. A teenager cut down on his porch on a warm day in Washington state.

During the week bookended by mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, in which gunmen killed 34 people, hundreds of others were shot to death across 47 U.S. states, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that uses local news and police reports to track gun incidents.

The deaths were the sort of everyday murders, suicides and accidents that may not grab the headlines of mass shootings, but in many ways show the true toll of the gun violence endemic to the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/File Photo

More than 36,000 people are shot to death every year on average in America, according to U.S. government data compiled by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That works out to about 100 a day, or one every 14-1/2 minutes. Suicides account for more than 60 percent of those deaths. Slightly more than a third are homicides.

Here are some of the victims of deadly shootings during the week between the attack in Gilroy and the attack in Dayton:

SUNDAY, JULY 28

Soon after a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Steven Parsons was sitting in a parked car with two other people 1,500 miles away in an alley in Kansas City, Missouri.

The 27-year-old died there along with another man, Montae Robinson, shot by a gunman who is still at large, police said. The third person in the car is being sought by police for questioning but is not a suspect.

“I have a wedding dress in my closet that I will never wear,” Marissa Tantillo said during Parsons’ funeral service on Wednesday evening at a chapel in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

They had two daughters together and planned to marry in a few months. She urged mourners never to take their loved ones for granted. “All I want you to do is hold your husband a little closer, hold your wife a little tighter,” she said.

Tantillo recalled a romance that began when she and Parsons were barely teenagers.

“So many of us don’t believe in love anymore,” Tantillo told the gathering. “In Steven, I knew I found my soul mate.”

Parsons had a sense of adventure as a boy, his father, Steve Parsons, said at the service. “We’d be cruising along in the old white van and he’d say, ‘What’s that way?’ and so we’d turn and go that way,” Parsons said.

People should remember the years his son lived, not the day he died, he said. “Do not let the last day destroy all the good days you had with him.”

MONDAY, JULY 29

Guests at the Hotel ZaZa in Dallas heard a commotion and screams from the room where Jacqueline Rose Parguian and her husband, Peter Nicholas, were staying on Monday night.

When hotel security staff knocked on the door, no one answered. Paramedics, responding to a 911 call about a woman loudly in distress and a report of a possible drug overdose, listened to the commotion outside as they waited for police to arrive, per department rules. A noisy hour passed. A gunshot rang out. The arguing stopped. Parguian was dead.

“Jackie had a passion for beauty,” an obituary published by Parguian’s family said. She pursued a degree in cosmetology and graduated from a Dallas beauty school in 2016.

She loved ’90s pop music, especially the boy band NSYNC, and collected concert tickets in a box of memories. One of six children, she was known for checking in frequently with her younger siblings.

She was 32. Her sons are 2 and 8.

“How do we explain to those little angels that their parents are both not going to be there anymore, ya know?” Parguian’s mother said in an interview. Friends and relatives had soon pledged more than $25,000 in donations to a GoFundMe fundraiser in support of the boys’ uncertain future.

When their father, known to some Dallas music fans as DJ Pete Mash, opened the hotel room door on Monday night to police, he had blood on him and an extension cord wrapped around his neck, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Police said he seemed high on drugs and that they had to subdue him with a stun gun after he began screaming and fighting. They found a handgun in a backpack in the room near Parguian’s body.

Explaining the delayed response, police later said officers were responding to higher-priority calls that night before reports of a gunshot came through.

Nicholas, 30, was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder. He was later released on a $250,000 bond. An attorney for Nicholas did not respond to a request for comment.

“Peter is a nice young man,” Parguian’s mother, Tess Parguian, told a local ABC television affiliate. “He’s very polite, and that’s why I cannot believe he could do such a thing.”

TUESDAY, JULY 30

It was a warm day in Tacoma, Washington, and Jamone Pratt was out on a friend’s front porch when he was shot in the head. Witnesses told police they saw at least two cars speeding away. Pratt was 16 years old.

Police have made no arrests. Jamone’s mother, Kyndal Pierce, has filled her Facebook page with anguished posts, saying she’s finding it hard to go on without her eldest son, a “tall and skinny” kid the family called Junior and who was inseparable from his sister.

“He made some bad choices, you know, got involved with the wrong people,” Pierce said in an interview with a local news channel. “I don’t know what happened, but I know my baby didn’t deserve this.”

A schoolmate of Jamone’s who makes music under the name KiingCalebb recorded a rap tribute to his friend called “MonesWrld.” The lyrics include oblique references to gang rivalries.

“Thought you were going to make it to 18,” the lyrics went. “All you wanted were your dreams / but now you fly high.”

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31

Growing up in the Miami area as a black transgender woman, Kiki Fantroy faced a lot of bullying – but that never altered her natural inclination to trust and forgive other people, her mother said.

Fantroy, 21, was shot several times early in the morning after leaving a house party, becoming the 13th black transgender woman killed in the United States this year, activists say.

The killing prompted several events in her memory, including a “Take Back the Night” event held by a local transgender women’s group and a candlelight vigil.

In an interview, Fantroy’s mother, Rhonda Comer, switched back and forth between using her daughter’s preferred name, Kiki, and her birth name, Marquis, and between masculine and feminine pronouns.

Comer said she supported Fantroy’s decision to begin transitioning as a teenager.

Fantroy always had a flair for fashion, Comer said.

“He would make clothes, he would tell me what to wear, what he wanted to wear, and he would always put his twist on things,” said Comer, 44. “Kiki could take a shirt and a skirt and make it a whole different outfit; you can’t ask me her favorite color because, honey, she wore it all.”

Fantroy loved and trusted people implicitly, Comer said, a trait that sometimes worried her – especially after Fantroy was sexually assaulted and “dumped in a tomato field” at age 16 by someone she had met online.

Fantroy had just left a house party with a friend, another transgender woman, and Comer said she was convinced they were deliberately targeted. Police in Miami-Dade County have declined to call the shooting a hate crime.

Police later arrested a 17-year-old boy and charged him with murder after a witness picked him out of a lineup.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1

Caden Lacunza, 11, had finished cleaning one fish and was just starting on the second one he had caught near Crow Creek Falls in rural Montana when he was shot in the head.

His father, Cadet, dropped the .357 revolver he had just fired, sprinted toward his fallen son and began yelling for his wife.

Hours later, he was under arrest for negligent homicide.

The details of the incident, laid out in a Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office report, indicate Cadet Lacunza didn’t intend any harm when he shot off a round in the direction of the river.

He had seen his family, including his wife, his son and his daughter, near the campfire, and decided to shoot his pistol, according to the report. While he was retrieving the gun from his pickup truck, however, Caden made his way to the river to clean the fish he had snared.

Lacunza’s lawyer, Greg Beebe, said his client was innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.

“This was just a tragic accident, and not a negligent homicide,” Beebe said. “At the center of this, we have a family who’s been devastated.”

Lacunza’s wife, Victoria, told Reuters in a Facebook message that the shooting was an accident but declined to comment further.

At the scene, officers retrieved Lacunza’s revolver, the cylinder still loaded except for a single spent round. In the river, about 10 feet from where Caden collapsed, they found a cleaned fish; the other fish was on the ground where the boy had dropped it, a small cut in its belly and a knife lying nearby.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2

Deante Strickland came running out of his grandparents’ house in Portland, Oregon, in mid-afternoon, bleeding from the chest.

“I don’t want to die,” he said, according to a construction worker who was at a site nearby. “My sister shot me.”

Strickland, 22, died near his home despite efforts to save his life. His sister, Tamena Strickland, has been charged with his murder, as well as with wounding her grandmother and aunt.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the shooting. Tamena Strickland’s defense lawyer, Robert Crow, said it was still too early to know exactly what had happened.

“Everybody is of the belief that this isn’t who Tamena is,” he said, adding that many family members attended her initial court appearance on Monday in support of both her and her brother. Tamena Strickland has not entered a plea and remains in custody in the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Crow said neither sibling had a criminal record, and there was no outward sign of any dispute between them.

“That’s part of what makes it such a mystery to people,” he said.

Strickland was a standout basketball and football player in high school. He spent two years at a junior college in Wyoming before transferring to his hometown school Portland State University, where he played on the basketball team.

He was entering graduate school at PSU in the fall and planned to play for the football team.

Friends and teammates flooded social media with remembrances of “Strick,” praising his devotion to Portland, his near-permanent smile and his love for basketball.

In a video he filmed shortly before graduation this year, Strickland said, “My advice to you: Don’t take the time for granted. It goes by fast, so try to enjoy every moment.”

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3

It was a cheerful summer Saturday afternoon in Denise Wimberly’s house in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

As music filled her home, the 61-year-old mother of four relaxed on her couch with her niece as her son Calvin Seay got ready for an afternoon basketball game.

“He came back in the house to lay his clothes out because he was a neat freak,” she said. “Then he left to go down the street to show the neighbors the phone he just got.”

Moments after the 23-year-old left, police officers responded to an alert from the department’s gunshot-detection system.

They found Seay, a father of one, lying on the sidewalk steps from his home. He had been shot once in the head and once in the chest.

“My other son ran down the street, saying Calvin got shot,” Wimberly said. She jumped up and threw down her cigarette. “I almost set my couch on fire.”

“He was my baby,” she said. “They need to stop the shooting, because they are shooting people that they don’t need to be.” No suspects have been arrested.

Seay’s slaying was part of a bloody weekend in Chicago in which seven people were killed and at least 45 others were wounded, including a 5-year-old boy.

“What will it take for people to become sick and tired at the level of gun violence in this country?” Chicago Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson asked at a news conference.

Seay, whose daughter turned 6 last week, loved to draw and play basketball and had just gotten a job with the Chicago Park District, where he was working with children at a summer camp.

“He was no person to go hang out on the street. He wasn’t like that at all,” Wimberly said. “He said that since he got the job, he was going to send me on vacation. That’s how he was.”

Less than 12 hours after Seay’s death, a gunman opened fire on the street in downtown Dayton, killing nine people.

Another week of gun violence in America was drawing to an end.

(Additional reporting and writing by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Kari Howard)

Trump says ‘common sense things can be done’ on guns, wants NRA input

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs on travel to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas following back-to-back mass shootings in the cities, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Susan Heavey and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday called for “common sense” solutions to address gun violence without mentioning what specific measures he would support and saying the views of powerful National Rifle Association lobbyists should be considered.

Thirty-one people were killed in two weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in attacks that shook the country and reopened a national debate on gun safety as Americans grapple with yet another mass shooting.

A week later, it remains unclear what, if any, specific steps the Republican president would back. Democrats are trying to galvanize public support for legislative action over what has been a contentious issue for years, even before Trump’s administration.

Trump earlier this week initially appeared to back background checks but then did not mention them in a public address on Monday that focused on mental illness and media culture. He later predicted congressional support for those background checks and blocking gun access to the mentally ill, but not for any effort to ban assault rifles.

He had promised to take action in early 2018 after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school but backed down after the NRA, a key financial donor to Republican politicians, weighed in.

On Friday, he appeared to want to balance any congressional action with the NRA’s views.

“I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country,” he wrote. “Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone.”

Trump said he had “been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.” The NRA, in a statement on Thursday, indicated it opposed further gun restrictions.

Congress is in recess but Trump said leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate were discussing expanding background checks for guns sales.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday rejected a plea from more than 200 mayors to call the Senate back early to consider gun legislation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said they had each spoken separately to Trump and that he had assured them he would review legislation that has already passed the Democratic-majority House.

The White House had said it would hold also a meeting with representatives from the technology industry on Friday to discuss violent extremism online. Trump is not scheduled to be at the White House for most of the day as he attends a fundraiser in the Hamptons in New York for his 2020 re-election campaign.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Bill Trott)

Petition by Walmart employee to protest gun sales gathers over 45,000 signatures

A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso,Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A petition started by a junior Walmart Inc <WMT.N> worker in California to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms, following two mass shootings over the weekend left 31 people dead in Texas and Ohio, has gathered more than 45,000 signatures.

Thomas Marshall, a 23-year-old category manager in San Bruno began his protest by emailing fellow employees and asking them to call in sick on Tuesday, leave work early on Wednesday, and to sign a Change.org petition.

The petition https://www.change.org/p/doug-mcmillon-stop-the-sale-of-guns-at-walmart-stores?utm_content=bandit-starter_cl_share_content_en-us%3Av4&recruited_by_id=fc7b5740-b810-11e9-be8a-6fbcafd3c27d&recruiter=989859201&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition, which is open to the public, is steadily approaching its goal of 50,000 signatures.

“In light of these recent tragedies — a mere snapshot of the gun violence epidemic plaguing the United States — and in response to Corporate’s inaction, we as employees are organizing several days of action, to protest Walmart’s profit from the sale of firearms and ammunition,” the petition says.

Marshall told Reuters he and other organizers would send the petition to the company’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon after it reaches its target.

Marshall said he was shut out of the company’s email and messaging networks temporarily earlier this week after he started the protest, but that he has since been granted access.

Employees in San Bruno and in Portland, Oregon had walked out on Wednesday in protest of the company’s policy of selling firearms, Marshall said, adding that some Walmart employees in New York also held a minute of silence that day.

Walmart said 40 employees in San Bruno protested by walking out but did not confirm the other details.

“A lot more employees have been reaching out to me to express their support but a majority of those employees are very afraid of retaliation from the company,” he said.

NO CHANGE IN GUN SALE POLICY

Earlier this week, Walmart told Reuters there had been no change in its policy on gun sales after the recent mass shootings, one of which took place in a Walmart store.

Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault-rifle sales in 2015 and to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018.

Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said on Thursday the company continued to feel there were more appropriate ways for employees to engage with the retailer, including through discussions with top leadership.

He said the company’s policy on selling firearms had not changed.

“We have worked very hard to be a responsible firearms retailer…Walmart does more in the area of background checks than what the federal law requires,” Hargrove added.

The retailer’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon sent a message to employees on social media late on Tuesday, assuring them the company was listening to their concerns.

“We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and we will act in a way that reflects the best values and ideals of our company,” McMillon said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump visits mass shooting victims; protesters shout ‘Do something!’

U.S. President Donald Trump deplanes with first lady Melania Trump arriving aboard Air Force One at El Paso International Airport for a visit with victims and first responders in the wake of last weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Jeff Mason

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump met victims and first responders from last weekend’s deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio on Wednesday, as chanting protesters accused him of inflaming tensions with anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric.

Trump visited hospitals where victims were treated in El Paso, Texas, on the border with Mexico, and in Dayton, Ohio, after massacres 13 hours apart that shocked the country and reopened a national debate on gun safety.

In both cities, crowds of protesters gathered to confront Trump and condemn his visit. Some held signs reading “Trump is racist,” “Love over hate” and “Send him back!”

Chanting crowds in Dayton urged Trump: “Do something!”

The president and first lady Melania Trump avoided the press on both hospital visits and stayed out of public view.

They visited survivors in their hospital rooms at the University Medical Center in El Paso and Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, and thanked the medical staff and first responders, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

“It was a warm and wonderful visit,” Trump said on Twitter after leaving Dayton. “Tremendous enthusiasm & even Love.”

A pro-Trump demonstrator holds a placard outside the University Medical Center, where U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting with first responders in the wake of last weekend's mass shootings at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

A pro-Trump demonstrator holds a placard outside the University Medical Center, where U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting with first responders in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Trump also visited law enforcement personnel at an emergency operations center in El Paso to thank them for their response on Saturday, when a man killed 22 people at a Walmart store, apparently after posting an anti-immigrant manifesto online.

In Dayton, nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early on Sunday.

“The job you have done is incredible,” Trump told gathered officers and staff. “I wanted to come and thank you.”

Before leaving Washington, Trump said that in the wake of the shootings he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and make sure mentally ill people did not carry guns. He predicted congressional support for those two measures but not for Democratic efforts to ban assault rifles.

“I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I will certainly bring that up … There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats, accompanied Trump in Dayton and told reporters they urged him to call on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back from its summer recess to work on a House-passed bill that expands background checks on gun buyers.

Brown said he asked Trump to promise he would sign that bill. “He only said that we will get things done,” Brown said, adding the president had been “comforting” to the victims.

Whaley said she agreed with Trump’s decision not to visit the district where the shooting occurred given the high emotions in the community.

‘NOT INTERESTED’

“A lot of people that own businesses in that district are not interested in the president being there,” she said. “A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive and that’s the last thing we need in Dayton.”

Trump later criticized the two Democrats for their comments, saying on Twitter the news conference they held was “a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place.”

Trump told reporters at the El Paso operations center the two Democrats “should not be politicking today.”

Democrats say Trump’s anti-immigrant, racially charged language at rallies and on Twitter has fanned racist, white nationalist sentiments, creating a political climate that is conducive to hate-based violence.

The massacre in the predominantly Hispanic city of El Paso is being investigated as a hate crime and act of domestic terrorism, authorities said. The FBI said the Dayton shooter also explored violent ideologies.

An open letter to Trump on Wednesday in the El Paso Times described the border city as having “a deep tradition of racial harmony” whose people came together after the tragedy. It admonished Trump for calling El Paso one of the country’s most dangerous cities in his February State of the Union address.

“He’s going to make war between us. Racism is starting to pop up more and more. Mexican people are fed up. He’s going to create chaos around here,” said Fernando Montoya, 45, who joined the protesters at a park in El Paso.

On Monday, Trump gave a speech focusing on mental health reforms, tighter internet regulation and wider use of the death penalty. Democrats accused Trump of hiding behind talk of mental illness and the influence of social media rather than committing to laws to restrict gun ownership.

In Iowa, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said Trump had “fanned the flames” of white supremacy.

“We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division,” the former vice president said.

Former Texas congressman and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, another 2020 presidential contender, said Trump “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and thus “has no place here.”

Asked on MSNBC on Wednesday if Trump is a white supremacist, O’Rourke said: “He is. He’s also made that very clear.”

U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes El Paso, declined a White House invitation to join Trump in the city and said that the president “is not welcome here.”

“Members of our community, Hispanics and Mexicans and immigrants, have been dehumanized. That’s the bottom line: we’ve been dehumanized by the president and by his words,” she told the protest rally in El Paso.

Not everyone agreed that Trump should stay away.

“This is not a political visit,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told reporters. “He is president of the United States. So in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations as mayor of El Paso to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community.”

(Additional reporting by Nandita Bose, Rich McKay, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Barbara Goldberg in New York, Daniel Trotta in El Paso; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Howard Goller, Alistair Bell and Sonya Hepinstall)

Heading to El Paso, Trump nixes assault weapons ban, supports stronger background checks

A woman kneels at a memorial three days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed legislation to ban assault rifles as politically unfeasible on Wednesday as he prepared to visit the sites of two deadly mass shootings that shocked the country and drew criticism of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

As he left the White House, Trump said he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and make sure mentally ill people did not carry guns. He predicted congressional support for those two measures but not for banning assault rifles.

“I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I will certainly bring that up … There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs on travel to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas following back-to-back mass shootings in the cities, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs on travel to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas following back-to-back mass shootings in the cities, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The president faced an uncertain welcome on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early on Sunday and in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart store on Saturday before the gunman was taken alive.

The back-to-back massacres, occurring 13 hours apart, have reopened the national debate over gun safety and led protesters in Dayton to heckle Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, at a vigil for the shooting victims with chants of “Do something!”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said on Tuesday she would welcome the Republican president, who has said he wants to meet law enforcement, first responders and survivors.

But Whaley said she planned to tell Trump “how unhelpful he’s been” on the issue of gun violence, referring to the speech he gave on Monday focusing on mental health reform, tighter internet regulation and wider use of the death penalty.

Critics have said Trump stokes violence with racially incendiary rhetoric. The El Paso massacre is being investigated as a hate crime and the FBI said the Dayton shooter had explored violent ideologies.

Democrats accuse Trump of hiding behind talk of mental illness and the influence of social media rather than committing to laws they insist are needed to restrict gun ownership and the types of weapons that are legal.

In Iowa, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden planned to say, “We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”

In a sign of higher tensions after the shootings, a motorcycle backfiring on Tuesday night in New York’s Times Square sent crowds running for fear of another gun attack. “People are obviously very frightened,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN.

Authorities in Texas have said they are investigating Saturday’s shooting spree in the predominantly Hispanic west Texas border city of El Paso as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism. They cited a racist manifesto posted online shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect.

An open letter to Trump on Wednesday in the El Paso Times described the border city as having “a deep tradition of racial harmony” whose people came together after the tragedy. It admonished Trump for calling El Paso one of the country’s most dangerous cities in his February State of the Union address.

“The violence that pierced El Paso, drawing you here today, is not of our own community,” wrote editor Tim Archuleta. “An outsider came here to shatter our city, to murder our neighbors. A white man from another Texas city came to target the more than 80% of us who share Hispanic roots.”

‘SINISTER IDEOLOGIES’

Trump, in his televised White House speech on Monday, condemned “sinister ideologies” and hate. His supporters say Democrats unfairly blame him for the behavior of criminals.

Democrats say Trump’s own anti-immigrant, racially charged language at rallies and on Twitter has done much to fan racist, white nationalist sentiments, creating a political climate more conducive to hate-based violence.

U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes El Paso, declared that Trump “is not welcome here.”

Trump staged his first political rally of 2019 in El Paso in February.

She said on Twitter on Tuesday she declined a White House invitation to join Trump in El Paso after being told he was too busy to speak with her by phone in advance. “I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” Escobar later told CNN.

Former Texas congressman and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, said Trump “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and thus “has no place here.”

In an apparent answer to his criticism, Trump said on Twitter late on Tuesday O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

Not everyone agreed that Trump should stay away.

“This is not a political visit,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told reporters. “He is president of the United States. So in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations as mayor of El Paso to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Rich McKay, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washingon, Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Paul Tait and Howard Goller)

Urged to ‘do something,’ Ohio governor backs ‘red flag’ law

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine reacts as vigil attendees shout “Do Something” while he was speaking at a vigil at the scene after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

By Matthew Lavietes

(Reuters) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine proposed a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others, responding to pressure for him to “do something” after a mass shooting in Dayton that killed nine people.

The Republican governor said he supported legislation that would allow judges to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals believed by police or their relatives to be a danger, and to provide them with mental health treatment.

“We have an obligation to each other,” DeWine said at a news briefing. “If someone is showing signs of trouble or problems, we must help and we must not turn away.”

DeWine spoke three days after a gunman wearing body armor and a mask opened fire in a crowded Dayton, Ohio, neighborhood known for its nightlife early on Sunday. It was the second deadly U.S. mass shooting in less than a day.

The governor was heckled on Sunday night as he spoke at a vigil for the victims of the rampage. Protesters repeatedly chanted “Do something!,” a reference to perceived state and federal inaction to curb U.S. gun violence.

“Some chanted ‘Do something!’ and they’re absolutely right,” DeWine said on Tuesday. “We must do something, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

Gun control is one of the most divisive issues in American politics. Supporters of tighter restrictions say they are necessary to staunch a U.S. epidemic of gun violence, while opponents believe more controls would violate gun ownership rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

In an address to the nation on Monday, President Donald Trump also backed “red flag” laws to allow guns to be taken away from dangerous individuals. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws in place, according to the Giffords gun-control group.

The president proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty in response to the two mass shootings over the weekend that left 32 people dead in Texas and Ohio.

Police named the Ohio gunman as Connor Betts, a 24-year-old white male from Bellbrook, Ohio, and said he was armed with an assault-style rifle fitted with an extended drum magazine that could hold 100 rounds.

The killings in Dayton began at around 1 a.m. on Sunday in the city’s Oregon District and ended rapidly when nearby police moved in and shot Betts dead. At least 14 people were wounded by gunfire, while others were injured as they fled. Six of the nine people killed were black.

The gunman shot at least 41 bullets in the seconds before he was killed, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told reporters on Monday. Police officers ended the rampage in about 30 seconds, Biehl said on Sunday.

Investigators were still trying to determine a motive, Biehl said. FBI agents were helping police.

The shooting in Dayton, a riverfront city of about 140,000 people in southwestern Ohio, took place just 13 hours after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. The 21-year-old suspect in that shooting was arrested.

Sunday’s massacre occurred a week after a teenager killed three people with an assault rifle at a food festival in Northern California before taking his own life.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Supreme Court rebuffs bid to expand legal protections for gun silencers

FILE PHOTO: SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron shows guns with suppressors in West Valley City, Utah February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away a bid to widen legal protections for gun silencers in a case involving two Kansas men convicted for failing to register the devices as required by federal law, as the justices again sidestepped a chance to rule on the scope of the right to bear arms.

The justices declined to hear appeals by the two men, Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler, and left in place their convictions in cases brought by federal prosecutors. The men had asked the court to decide whether silencers – muzzle attachments that suppress the sound of a gunshot – are covered by the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

The court’s action came in the aftermath of a May 31 mass shooting in the Virginia coastal city of Virginia Beach in which a gunman who killed 12 people used weapons including a handgun equipped with a silencer.

President Donald Trump, a Republican with a close relationship to the National Rifle Association pro-gun lobby, said in an interview aired on June 5 that he does not like silencers and would be open to considering banning the devices. His administration this year imposed a ban on “bump stock” attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly, with the Supreme Court in March permitting the policy to take effect.

Kettler and Cox were prosecuted together in 2014 after Kettler purchased a silencer from Cox’s military surplus store in Chanute, Kansas. Both were prosecuted under a federal law called the National Firearms Act, which requires registration of certain firearms, with silencers included in a list of covered items along with grenades, machine guns and bombs.

Cox was convicted of possessing an unregistered silencer as well as an unregistered short-barreled rifle and transferring unregistered silencers. Kettler was convicted of possessing an unregistered silencer.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld both men’s convictions last year, prompting them to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear its biggest gun rights case since 2010, taking up a challenge to New York City’s strict limits on handgun owners transporting their firearms outside the home.

New York officials are considering revising the measure, which may lead to the Supreme Court case becoming moot before the justices hear arguments in their next term, which begins in October.

The court in recent years has been reluctant to take up gun cases and has yet to decide whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry guns in public, a question left unanswered in its two most recent gun-related decisions.

In its 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, the court held that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms. In its 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago ruling, the court held that the earlier ruling applied to the states.

The court currently has two appeals pending that ask for the justices to rule that the right to bear arms extends outside the home, as well as two other gun-related cases. The justices may be waiting for the New York case to be resolved before deciding what moves to take on the other cases.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)