El Paso shooting GOP responses: from condemning “white terrorism” to condemning video games – Vox.com

Leading Republican political figures have had a varied set of reactions to the mass shooting that killed 20 people in El Paso Saturday.

Many Democrats have responded by calling for more gun control, or by criticizing President Trump and others on the right for stoking anti-immigrant bigotry. The El Paso suspect, a young white man, may have posted a virulently anti-immigrant manifesto online just before the shooting. (There was also another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio this weekend that killed nine people, but details about the shooter’s motivation aren’t yet known.)

Republicans, however, have had a more varied set of reactions. Some condemned white supremacy. Some called for moderate gun control measures. Others argued that those seeking gun control or blaming Trump have it wrong. And still others sought to cast the blame elsewhere — for instance, on violent video games.

Meanwhile, President Trump himself hasn’t had much of substance to say about the shooting yet, beyond that it was bad, and that “there are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people.”

Some outright condemned white supremacy

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (R) — Jeb’s son — became one of the first major Republicans to speak out strongly against the apparent ideology behind the El Paso attack, calling it “white terrorism.”

“There have now been multiple attacks from self-declared white terrorists here in the US in the last several months,” Bush said. “This is a real and present threat that we must all denounce and defeat.”

On Sunday morning, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a first-term member of Congress whose district represents part of Houston, also condemned “white supremacy” and said it must be “rooted out.”

And then on Sunday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) released his own statement along similar lines. “As the son of a Cuban immigrant, I am deeply horrified by the hateful anti-Hispanic bigotry expressed in the shooter’s so-called ‘manifesto.’” Cruz said.

Cruz continued: “This ignorant racism is repulsive and profoundly anti-American. We must speak clearly to combat evil in any form it takes. What we saw yesterday was a heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy. There is no place for this in El Paso, in Texas, or anywhere across our nation.”

Some blamed violent video games

Yet other leading Republican politicians seemed hesitant to characterize the El Paso shooting as part of a trend of white supremacy that must be defeated. For instance, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) appeared on Fox News Sunday morning and spent a good deal of time fulminating instead against violent video games.

“What’s changed in this country? We’ve always had guns. We’ve always had evil. But what’s changed where we see this rash of shootings? And I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.”

Patrick continued: “This was maybe a video game to this evil demon. A video game to him. He has no sense of humanity, no sense of life. He wanted to be a super soldier, for his Call of Duty game.”

The manifesto many believe was written by the shooter briefly references the Call of Duty series, but in fact uses it as an example of what shooters shouldn’t do. The manifesto spends far more time fulminating against Latinxs and immigrants.

Now, Patrick did briefly acknowledge on Fox News that he thought the El Paso shooting was “obviously a hate crime” against “immigrants.” But he quickly moved on to say that he thinks there are “many factors” involved in these shootings, including “the violence of bullying people on social media every day,” how “we won’t let our kids even pray in our schools,” how we “no longer salute our flag,” and how some people “throw water on law enforcement.”

Later in the morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was asked by a Fox News host about Patrick’s comments about video games, and he said he agreed with them:

“The idea these video games — to dehumanize individuals, to have a game of shooting individuals and others — I’ve always felt that is a problem for future generations and others,” McCarthy said. “We’ve watched from studies shown before of what it does to individuals. When you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

Some suggested gun control wasn’t the answer

Then there’s Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who took the time to tweet that gun control advocates’ ideas were “clear, simple, and wrong.”

He characterized mass shootings as an issue “where we simply don’t have all the answers.”

Cornyn added that certain measures could help, but that he was concerned about “focusing on law abiding citizens excersizing [sic] their constitutional rights.”

Some alluded to mental health or “red flag” laws

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), meanwhile, tweeted that it was “time to do more than pray” — he called on Congress to enact “Red Flag laws,” which would allow court petitions to temporarily restrict an individual’s gun access if the individual presents “a danger to themselves and others.”

This has been a gun control measure that has gotten some support from Republicans — for instance, in the wake of the Parkland shootings in 2018, Florida passed a red flag law. However, as Graham acknowledges, it is unclear whether such a law would have made a difference in this situation.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on ABC News Sunday that “sick people who are intent on doing things like this should not be able to buy guns legally” — but also that the “challenge” is identifying who is sick.

And at a press conference Saturday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that “mental health-based issues” are probably a “component” to any “type of shooting,” and that “the state and society” need to do “a better job of dealing with” those issues.

Liberal critics pointed to a 2015 tweet in which Abbott said he was “EMBARRASSED” that Californians bought more guns than Texans, and urged his constituents to “pick up the pace.”

Some suggested critics should stop pointing fingers

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, condemned the shootings in El Paso and Dayton — while also condemning “finger-pointing” that was making it harder for America to “come together.”

Conway did not say exactly what she meant by “finger-pointing,” but one likely possibility is the arguments from Democratic presidential candidate and former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke that shooters like those in El Paso “are white men motivated by the kind of fear that this president traffics in.”

When ABC’s Jonathan Karl also asked Mulvaney what he would say to Americans “who look at what happened in El Paso and say that the president’s rhetoric is in part to blame,” the acting chief of staff suggested that to do so would be silly.

He pointed out that the supposed manifesto claimed that the shooter’s ideas predated Trump, and said, “Did anyone blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional baseball game shooting? I don’t think so.”

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