Aug 5, 2019

Obama condemns leaders who "demonize" immigrants in statement on mass shootings

Barack Obama

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former President Obama, in his first statement responding to the mass shootings that left at least 31 dead over the weekend, urged Americans to demand tougher gun laws from their public officials and condemn leaders whose language "feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments."

The big picture: 24 mass shootings occurred during the Obama administration — "more than the three preceding administrations combined," according to National Affairs. Among those tragedies was the mass shooting that killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., viewed by many former aides as one of the most challenging moments of the Obama presidency.

In Monday's statement responding to the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Obama did not directly name President Trump in his condemnation of leaders that "demonize those who don't look like us." His words, however, align with those of many Democrats who have accused Trump of inciting violence with his racist and divisive rhetoric in the wake of the attacks.

  • In an address to the public Monday morning, Trump also condemned "racism, bigotry and white supremacy," but made no reference to his own incendiary past statements. He also did not call for any significant action on gun control, but floated stronger background checks tied to immigration reform in a tweet earlier Monday.

Full statement:

Michele and I grieve with all the families in El Paso and Dayton who endured these latest mass shootings. Even if details are still emerging, there are a few things we already know to be true.
First, no other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States. No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do. Every time this happens, we’re told that tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders; that they won’t stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places. But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak. We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.
Second, while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known, there are indications that the El Paso shooting follows a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy. Like the followers of ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, these individuals may act alone, but they’ve been radicalized by white nationalist websites that proliferate on the internet. That means that both law enforcement agencies and internet platforms need to come up with better strategies to reduce the influence of these hate groups.
But just as important, all of us have to send a clarion call and behave with the values of tolerance diversity that should be the hallmark of our democracy. We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; 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, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people. Such language isn’t new — it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world. It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.

Go deeper: Mass shootings force America to reckon with its hate problem

Go deeper