By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Last week I wrote about gun violence and mass murder. My column was a warning entitled “It could happen anywhere.”
Two days later, it did.
This time a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. It was one of the worst massacres in U.S. history, leaving 20 dead and dozens more seriously wounded. The weapon of choice again was an assault weapon. And then just hours later a gunman in Dayton, Ohio opened fire on innocent bystanders killing nine with an assault weapon. It took 30 seconds. That’s the killing power of assault weapons.
Thirty-one dead and scores wounded in 12 hours. They won’t be the last.
In El Paso, the assailant was fueled by hatred of Hispanics and Mexicans who largely inhabit the city of El Paso. He was said to be enraged by what he referred to as the “invasion” of Hispanic immigrants. He used the very same language that we have heard this president use over and over again. “Invasion.”
President Donald Trump has been admonished repeatedly to tone down his anti-immigrant rhetoric and to unequivocally condemn the white supremacist ideology. Until now, he did not. The fear was that impressionable or sick minds would latch on to the president’s words and act on them in a perverted attempt to defend the nation from the “invaders” who President Trump repeatedly said were “rapists and criminals.”
Last Saturday, that fear was realized as the young assailant, who no doubt heard Donald Trump’s words as a call to action, picked up his assault weapon and traveled hundreds of miles to El Paso in order to kill the Hispanic “invaders.”
It’s not hard to connect the dots. Hateful, xenophobic words with violent imagery invoked by the president and the easy availability of battlefield weapons designed to kill enemy combatants with deadly efficiency. The perfect storm. The depraved indifference of the racist shooter and an irresponsible president who tosses incendiary language around like hand grenades. The result is horrific.
The same president who refuses to do anything to ban these destructive military weapons or regulate the 300 million other firearms in circulation.
And let’s not forget the craven members of Congress who cannot bring themselves to rebuke Trump’s inciteful language who so fear the political clout of the NRA that time and again, they refuse to pass any laws to interfere with the gun industry’s ability to sell millions more guns every year. Will it be any different now? How much more blood needs to be spilled before Congress will act?
There are even the craziest of the crazy who deny that these slaughters are real. The people who called the survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland Florida “fake crisis actors.” And even some who assert that the massacre of 20 toddlers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut never happened. They say it’s just a made up conspiracy against gun owners.
Even as the events of the weekend atrocities came into clearer focus, the president still could not bring himself to propose a ban on assault weapons. However, on Monday morning, he called for an end to racism and bigotry as an underlying causes of violence. With all due respect, the best place for him to start would be with his tweets.