At least 30 people have died and over 50 others were injured in two separate mass shooting incidents in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, respectively, in what are the latest cases of mass violence attributed to gun use.
Messages of thoughts and prayers, frustration and hope filled social media and news reports by politicians and private citizens alike as the country tops 250 mass shootings this year alone (definition of mass shooting can be the deaths of at least three or four people, depending on the source).
Reported xenophobic sentiment against the swelling Hispanic population fueled alleged shooter Patrick Crusius's, 21, violent spree at a Walmart store in El Paso, a border city with Mexico. A federal criminal investigation will be conducted for domestic terrorism charges with the local prosecutors are pursuing hate crime and capital domestic terrorism charges.
In less than a minute in the early Sunday morning hours in a Dayton neighborhood, 24-year-old Connor Betts killed nine people, including his sister, Megan, before Dayton Police shot and killed him.
Both shooters used semi-automatic guns in their attacks.
President Donald Trump made a live address to the nation Monday morning about the weekend shootings.
“In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another, over and over again, decade after decade,” said the president. “We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless.”
Various federal and state lawmakers representing Pennsylvania also issued their own statements since the shootings, ranging in message from condemning the president’s own anti-immigration rhetoric to the latest call for governmental action on gun control reforms.
Gov. Tom Wolf Monday morning announced all commonwealth government buildings to lower the state flag to half-staff in honor of the victims.
“Many ills contribute to this rising violence. We can and must take action,” read Wolf’s statement. "We can ban assault weapons and institute stricter background checks. We can make communities safer. We can target white nationalism and promote tolerance. We can invest in mental health care and help those struggling. We cannot accept this violence as normal. We must act.”
A statement he sent out later in the day addressed the legislative actions that need to take course to quell these incidents that number hundreds every year. Wolf recalled The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last fall by a man armed with three semi-automatic pistols and one semi-automatic assault rifle that killed 11 people. He said there are certain “common sense steps we can take, on a myriad of problems, to reduce the likelihood and propensity of gun violence.”
“I urge the House and Senate to address this issue. In Pennsylvania, as long as it is a private sale, any person can still buy an assault rifle to commit a mass shooting without a background check,” said the governor. “We still don’t have a ‘red flag’ law that could get these weapons away from someone who was known to be dangerous. These are just two of many bills that exist right now to reduce violence. All of these bills have been stalled for too long.”
Freshman state Rep. Mike Zabel, D-163 of Upper Darby, sat on a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on July 23 addressing gun violence as a public health crisis, five days before three were killed in a mass shooting event in Gilroy, California, and 11 days before the start of the deadly weekend in El Paso and Dayton.
“We can’t say one thing will fix this or another thing will fix this,” Zabel said about the hearing. “We have to look at a broad spectrum of solutions and, frankly, incorporate all of them. It’s that important.”
State Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, may be of the ruling party in the state Legislature that has yet to entertain gun control legislation, but he, too, is siding with his Democratic governor’s message that something needs to be done.
“I proudly stand with lawmakers around the country who make ending gun violence a top priority. I will continue to fight for common-sense proposals to end this violence, including my Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation that allows judges to temporarily remove guns from dangerous and disturbed individuals,” the senator said in a statement. “Doing nothing to end gun violence is not an option. Letting 100 people die every day from gun violence is not acceptable for a civilized country. We must enact gun safety laws now to prevent more families from losing loved ones to gun violence.”
The senator supported the passing by the Democratically-held U.S. House of Representations in February of Resolution 8 to require a background check for every firearm sale in the country. A similar piece of legislation, H.R. 1112, also passed the house in February with the resolution. These bills, along with bills regarding red flag laws, assault weapon ban bills and others sponsored by Democrats, have yet to move in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate under Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.
“Politicians who refuse to take action to reduce gun violence are complicit in this carnage. If we’re going to truly confront this uniquely American problem, we have to speak uncomfortable truths,” wrote U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Monday.” Over and over again, domestic terrorists use high powered, military-style assault weapons to kill our children and our families. There are a whole range of steps that must be taken. Congress’s first priority must be passing universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and banning military-style assault weapons, among other measures.
“Senate Majority Leader McConnell should immediately call the Senate back to Washington this week to debate and vote on universal background check legislation that was passed by the House in February.”
Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy has been fighting prominently for gun control measures at the state and federal levels since 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 students and adults in a Connecticut elementary school. A statement by Delco United Co-Chair Jessica Frankl kept the issue not on violent video games (a disproven theory that has reemerged) or the “stigmatization of mental illness,” but on the guns themselves.
“Semi-automatic military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines have no place in civilian hands. This is a uniquely American problem, and if we choose to ignore the logical solutions, events like these will continue to plague our communities,” she said. “It's time that our leaders lead, and that their actions reflect the cries of the majority of Americans who are begging for common-sense gun legislation.”
Delco United is planning a gun protest rally sometime next week with their partner organizations. Frankl said Monday the details were still being organized.
Trump urged in his Monday morning address that bipartisan efforts are needed to make the changes that will “stop this evil contagion.
“In that task we must honor the sacred memory of those we have lost by acting as one people. Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real bipartisan solutions; we have to do it in a bipartisan manner that will truly make America safer and better for all,” he said.
He later added, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside, so destructive, and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love. Our future is on our control.”
Trump did not elaborate on what type of gun legislation should be proposed.