Former President Barack Obama said on Monday, in his first public statement since a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, that Americans must “soundly reject language” from any leader who “feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”
The statement also reminded Americans that “we are not helpless” in the face of the nation’s high frequency of mass shootings compared to other countries.
“And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening,” Obama wrote.
A shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, killed 22 people, and a second shooting outside a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday killed nine people.
The former president noted that the El Paso shooting followed a trend of “troubled individuals who embrace ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy.” Obama advised Americans to also denounce the language of “leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human.”
Such language has “been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history,” Obama added, and has “no place in our politics and our public life.”
President Trump said in scripted remarks to the nation earlier Monday that the nation “must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.” He also said he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America,” Trump said. “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul.”
Meanwhile, National Affair published an analysis titled Presidents and Mass Shootings in the spring of 2018, reporting:
Despite Bush’s efforts, mass shootings continued to plague our nation during Barack Obama’s presidency. The Obama administration endured 24 mass shootings—more than the three preceding administrations combined. More than any previous administration, Obama and his Cabinet appeared to have a playbook for responding to shootings, and they usually commented on or issued statements about them. Gone were the days of ignoring mass shootings and hoping thereby to starve them of attention.
In response to Obama’s tweet, Musician Donn La Rossa had a notable comment:
Ronald Reagan: 1981-1989 (8 years) 11 mass shootings
George H. W. Bush: 1989-1993 (4 years) 12 mass murders
Bill Clinton: 1993-2001 (8 years) 23 mass murders
George W. Bush: 2001-2009 (8 years) 20 mass murders
Barrack H. Obama: 2009-2015 (in 7th year) 162 mass murders
— Donn La Rossa (@Jazzlaro) August 5, 2019
Includes reporting from the Associated Press