Once again, the horrific combination of white nationalist terrorism and lax gun violence prevention laws has claimed American lives on a massive scale. The 22 innocents murdered in El Paso join the 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the nine worshippers massacred at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, and too many others as victims of this terrorist ideology and those who support it. The attacks in El Paso and Dayton also come on the heels of mass shootings in Gilroy, California, and Brownsville, New York, just last weekend—once again highlighting the urgent need for our elected leaders to prevent weapons designed for the battlefield from being carried on our streets.
Gun violence is a multifaceted problem that requires a comprehensive approach to finally ensure that these mass attacks stop and that communities that bear a daily burden of gun violence can finally exist in peace. Institutionalizing people with mental illness is not a solution, and talk of video games is a cynical distraction. Congress needs to immediately pass legislation to address the biggest gaps in our nation’s gun laws, starting with banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, enacting meaningful extreme risk protection order legislation, and requiring background checks for all gun sales.
In addition, we cannot begin to address the rising epidemic of white nationalist terrorism until President Donald Trump faces it up to his own role, disowns his previous rhetoric—in particular his demonizing of immigrants, similar language of which was at the heart of too many of these terrorist attacks—and stops stoking hatred as part of his strategy to energize his base. The president’s own appointed FBI director stated that right now, the “majority of the domestic terrorism cases we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”
Congress and the administration must provide full funding to combat domestic terrorism and investigate why the administration refused to join the Christchurch Call to Action Summit, the French and New Zealand initiative to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content from the internet while respecting free speech rules. The time for half-hearted teleprompter speeches is over—the president and members of Congress must choose between being part of the solution or part of the problem.