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Two mass shootings in less than 24 hours have drawn Democrats, Republicans, gun-control activists and immigration advocates into a renewed battle. Here’s what we know so far

In Dayton, Ohio, Damon Smith presents a message to President Donald Trump beside a makeshift memorial for the slain and injured victims of a mass shooting days earlier.John Minchillo/The Associated Press

The latest

  • U.S. President Donald Trump was greeted by protesters in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday after a mass shooting there over the weekend, the second in 24 hours. Mr. Trump was due to visit the scene of the other attack in El Paso, Texas, later in the day, amid criticism that his anti-immigrant rhetoric is making violent extremism worse. But in Dayton, the President defended his stand on issues including immigration, claiming instead that he “brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well.”
  • Thirty-one people are dead and many more injured after the shootings in Texas on Saturday and Ohio early Sunday, which have reignited debate in the United States about gun control and white nationalism. Mr. Trump denounced the shootings and proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental-health reform and wider use of the death penalty in response. But gun-control advocates alleged those measures were a distraction from the real root causes: easy access to firearms and the anti-immigrant rhetoric Mr. Trump has stoked in the past.
  • Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine, who was heckled at a Sunday vigil for the victims with chants of “do something!”, threw his support behind a proposed “red flag” law that would let authorities take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others. A similar bipartisan proposal in the U.S. Senate is also gaining momentum, though another law like it foundered in the GOP-controlled Senate last year.

How the shootings unfolded

El Paso

CCTV footage obtained by KTSM 9 news channel shows a gunman entering the Cielo Vista Walmart store in El Paso on Aug. 3.Courtesy of KTSM 9/AFP/Getty Images

At the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border, as many as 3,000 shoppers came to Walmart on Saturday morning to bargain-hunt for back-to-school supplies. Then, just after 10:30 a.m. (MT), police began getting reports of an active shooter. El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said police responded to the shooting within six minutes. Police said the gunman opened fire with a rifle, then surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the store.


A picture released by Dayton police shows the weapon and extended magazine used in a mass shooting early on Aug. 4.Dayton Police Department/Reuters

Hours after the El Paso shooting, just after 1 a.m. (ET), a white gunman wearing a mask and body armour opened fire in the bustling Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio, armed with an AR-15-style rifle. In a shooting spree that lasted about 30 seconds, nine people were killed, including the gunman’s own sister. More than 30 were injured and at least 14 had gunshot wounds; others were hurt as people fled, city officials said. Police officers stationed nearby fatally shot the gunman soon after the first shots were fired. Surveillance video showed officers shot him at the doorstep of a bar where some people had taken cover. Had he gotten inside, the result would have been “catastrophic,” Police Chief Richard Biehl said.

The suspects

El Paso

El Paso shooting suspect Patrick Crusius.El Paso Police Department/Reuters

Patrick Crusius, 21, a white nationalist, is charged with capital murder and police are investigating the Walmart attack as an act of domestic terrorism. Moments before the attack, a post claiming to be from the gunman appeared on the forum website 8chan, which has been linked to other acts of extremist violence in the past. In the post, he expressed sympathy for the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, this past spring, and echoed that gunman’s rhetoric of white “replacement,” a far-right theory that white people are being replaced by non-white migrants. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the post read.

Mr. Crusius lived with his grandparents in the affluent Dallas suburb of Allen, though the grandparents, Larry and Cynthia Brown, said in a statement read by a family friend that he moved out six weeks before the shooting. He drove more than 10 hours and about 965 kilometres to get from the Dallas area to El Paso, police say.


Dayton shooting suspect Connor Betts.Dayton Police Department/Reuters

Connor Betts, 24, had been on police’s radar before, in 2012, when he was suspended for compiling a “hit list” and “rape list” that he shared at his high school in the Dayton suburb of Bellbrook. The hit list sparked a police investigation and, according to a Dayton Daily News story at the time, roughly a third of 900 Bellbrook High School students skipped class one day out of fear of a planned attack. Mr. Betts, who was 17 in 2012, was not named publicly by authorities as the author of the hit list, but it was common knowledge within the school he was the one who got in trouble over the incident, according to former classmates who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The victims

El Paso

On Aug. 5, crosses at a makeshift memorial bear the names of people killed at the Cielo Vista Walmart.Mark Lambie/The Associated Press

The dead in El Paso came from all ages and walks of life, and included four married couples. Mexico’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, has said that eight of the 22 were Mexican citizens, and a German national was also identified. There are still some discrepancies between the lists of victims provided by the El Paso police and Mexican government, but here are the ones collected so far by The Associated Press and Washington Post:

  • Married couple Andre Anchondo, 24, and Jordan Anchondo, 25
  • Arturo Benavides, 60
  • Married couple Leonardo (Leo) Cepeda Campos, 41, and Maribel Loya Campos, 56
  • Angie Englisbee, 86
  • Married couple Raul Flores, 83, and Maria Flores, 77
  • Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61
  • Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66
  • Married couple Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68, and Sara Esther Regalado, 66
  • Maria Eugenia Legarreta, 58
  • David Johnson, 63
  • Luis Juarez, 90
  • Ivan Manzano, 45
  • Gloria Irma Marquez, 61
  • Elsa Mendoza, 57
  • Margie Reckard, 63
  • Javier Rodriguez, 15
  • Teresa Sanchez, 82
  • Juan de Dios Velazquez, 77


A sign with victims' names sits outside a record store in Dayton's Oregon District on Aug. 5.Scott Olson/Getty Images

The youngest of the nine people killed was Mr. Betts’s 22-year-old sister, Megan, though police said it was still unknown whether he had targeted her: “It seems to just defy believability he would shoot his own sister, but it’s also hard to believe that he didn’t recognize it was his sister, so we just don’t know,” said Chief Biehl.

The other victims were:

  • Monica Brickhouse, 39
  • Nicholas Cumer, 25
  • Derrick Fudge, 57
  • Thomas McNichols, 25
  • Lois Oglesby, 27
  • Saeed Saleh, 38
  • Logan Turner, 30
  • Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36

Six of the victims were black, but police said the speed of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.

The gun-control debate

Mass shootings have a long and bloody history in the United States, where permissive laws for the purchase and ownership of weapons – and a multibillion-dollar gun industry lobbying to protect those laws – have left Americans with more firearms per capita than any other country. Political momentum for gun control increased after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, but the various attempts to pass new legislation failed in Congress, and after Mr. Trump was elected, he rolled back some of the Obama-era gun-control reforms.

Mr. Trump has sometimes called for new gun-control measures – such as in 2018 after meeting with survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. – but later reneged. After the Texas and Ohio shootings, Mr. Trump called for bipartisan solutions to gun violence, but offered few details and did not propose specific ways to improve background checks or limit firearms access. In remarks at his New Jersey golf club on Monday, he also blamed mental illness and violent video games for gun violence, citing no evidence that those things are linked (which researchers widely agree they are not).

In response to the shootings, contenders for the Democrats’ presidential nomination have denounced Mr. Trump’s inaction on gun control, and offered various proposals to limit access to military-style weapons:

  • Bernie Sanders: At a town hall in Las Vegas on Sunday, the Vermont senator called for universal background checks for firearm purchases and more restrictions on assault weapons. He also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to recall legislators for "a special session to address gun violence in America and let us finally have the courage to take on the NRA,” referring to the National Rifle Association, a gun-industry lobby group.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Singling out gun manufacturers, Ms. Warren tweeted that “we need to tackle corruption in Washington head-on” by limiting the role of gun-industry lobbyists in Washington and groups such as the NRA.
  • Joe Biden: The former vice-president said in an interview with CNN that he’d push for a federal buyback program to encourage Americans to give up their military-style weapons and ammunition. That’s in addition to his plan for renewing a lapsed federal ban on new manufacturing and sales of such firearms — a prohibition he helped win in 1994 as a senator from Delaware, only to watch it expire a decade later.

And in the Republican-controlled Senate, where a so-called red flag law stalled last year, political momentum is building around a proposal by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal to try again. In general, red flag or “extreme risk protection order” laws let courts issue temporary orders barring someone from having guns if there is a perceived imminent danger. Some states have laws like this, but the Graham-Blumenthal plan – the language of which is still under development – would set a national standard tied to federal grants, akin to federal highway laws. “If you have speed limits, you get the money,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

El Paso in focus

Flowers and a Virgin Mary painting adorn a makeshift memorial in El Paso.Andres Leighton/The Associated Press

The scenes of violence in El Paso – one of the Texas cities home to migrant detention centres where asylum seekers have described cramped, filthy conditions and limited access to food and water – have renewed questions about U.S. political polarizations about immigration policy generally, and the Trump administration’s treatment of Mexico specifically.

El Paso County is more than 80 per cent Latino, according to the latest census data. El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, together with the neighboring city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, form a metropolitan border area of some 2.5 million residents constituting the largest bilingual, bi-national population in North America. The border city has become a focal point of the immigration debate. Mr. Trump visited in February to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer, while city residents and Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke led thousands on a protest march past the barrier of barbed wire-topped fencing and towering metal slats.

Mr. O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, had fiery words after the shooting for Mr. Trump, who he said was a white nationalist whose anti-immigrant rhetoric stoked a climate of racism. “We have a president right now who trafficks in this hatred. Who incites this violence,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “Who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Who calls asylum seekers animals and an infestation.” He also urged the President not to come to El Paso.

Extremism in focus

Fredrick Brennan, creator of website 8chan, speaks during an interview in Manila on Aug. 6, 2019.Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. politicians of all partisan stripes denounced white nationalism after the El Paso attacks, but software developer Fredrick Brennan had a more specific idea about how to stop extremism: Shut down the website that he created, 8chan. In 2013, Mr. Brennan founded 8chan as a less restrictive version of the message board 4chan. Over the past four years, that freedom has made it a breeding ground for the far right: At least three mass shootings in 2019 – including the mosque killings in Christchurch, and a synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif. – have been announced in advance on the site, often accompanied by racist writings that seem engineered to go viral on the internet. Mr. Brennan gave up his role at 8chan and has distanced himself from its current owner, Jim Watkins. “It’s not doing the world any good,” Mr. Brennan told The Associated Press in an interview. "It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.”

As of Wednesday, the site is down after yet another hosting provider, Epik, severed ties with 8chan. It is currently available only on the so-called dark net, an encrypted network that users need a special browser to access. Mr. Watkins – who, like Mr. Brennan, lives in the Philippines – has also been summoned before Congress to testify at the House homeland security committee.

More reading

David Shribman: Post-shooting rituals have become an American art form, performed in grief

Jared Yates Sexton: America’s undiagnosed sickness continues: White supremacy has been here for two centuries

André Picard: Stop using mental illness to explain away violence. It’s not that simple

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