Aug 5, 2019

Axios PM

Good afternoon. Today's PM — edited by Shane Savitsky — is 709 words, a 3.5-minute read.

Situational awareness: Two more victims of the El Paso mass shooting died today, bringing the death toll to 22. What we know so far.

1 big thing: The political pressure begins

Photos: Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called on Mitch McConnell this afternoon to bring the Senate back from its August recess for a special session to take up a gun background checks bill passed by the House earlier this year.

The state of play: Politico's Heather Caygle reports that House Democrats debated during an afternoon conference call whether they should also come back into session this month, passing more gun control bills of their own.

  • Pelosi and other top Dems "stressed the strategy is to keep the pressure on McConnell and Senate inaction," while other big names, like House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, want to push through an assault weapons ban.
  • It's similar to the intra-caucus war over impeachment, where the top power players in the party are advocating for a more cautious path.

The other side: Background checks never came up during Trump's address to the nation in response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton this weekend. In fact, he did not advocate for any stricter gun control measures.

  • The president condemned white supremacy and racism, focused on the effects of violent video games and advocated for "red flag" laws, which prevent those deemed dangerous to society from buying or retaining guns.
  • He also called on Big Tech to do more work to identify potential mass shooters earlier, but those companies told Axios' Ina Fried that they have widespread skepticism about the seriousness of Trump's call.
  • "Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger — not the gun," Trump said.

The bottom line: According to experts, neither mental illness nor violence in culture can adequately explain the increased instances of gun violence in the U.S.

  • "Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. ... The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them," writes American Psychological Association President Rosie Phillips Davis in a statement.
  • And multiple studies have found no causal link between violent video games and real world violence.

P.S. ... President Obama issued a statement on the shootings, urging 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."

  • Worth noting: He did not mention Trump by name.
Bonus: Pic du jour
A trader on the floor of the NYSE watches today's returns. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

The Dow closed down 767 points for its worst day of 2019 — the S&P 500 tumbled almost 3% and the Nasdaq was off nearly 3.5% — as China let its currency weaken to historically low levels amid its ongoing and escalating trade war with the U.S.

  • Why it matters, via Bloomberg: "Trump's trade battle with China is starting to look like a forever war — a quagmire with no end in sight, no clear path to a resolution and more potential land mines for an already weakening global economy."
2. What you missed
  1. July 2019 was confirmed as the hottest month ever recorded, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service. By the numbers.
  2. Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020, becoming the fourth GOP House member from the state to announce retirement in recent weeks. Details.
  3. Valentina Sampaio became the first openly transgender model hired by Victoria's Secret. More from AP.
  4. The Israeli government is worried about a confrontation with the Trump administration unless it creates a mechanism to monitor Chinese investments across the country. Go deeper.
3. 1 nun thing

ICYMI in Kendall Baker's Axios Sports this morning ... Shelly Pennefather is one of the best women's basketball players to ever live, starring at Villanova before playing professionally in Japan, but in 1991, she gave up her career to become a cloistered nun at a monastery in Alexandria, Va.

  • Now known as Sister Rose Marie, Pennefather is only permitted to physically embrace her family and friends once every 25 years. And in June, her mother hugged her for what was likely the final time ... and ESPN was there.

Worthy of your time.