Deadly Dayton, El Paso Mass Shootings Renew Gun Violence Conversation

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People attend a vigil for victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (John Locher/AP)
People attend a vigil for victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (John Locher/AP)

Editor's note: After broadcast, the El Paso Police Department announced the deaths of two more victims, bringing the death toll to 22.

With David Folkenflik

Deadly shooting attacks in El Paso and Dayton cause two communities to grieve — and focus national attention once more on gun policy and questions of domestic terrorism.


Aaron Montes, news reporter at the El Paso Times, and a native of the city. (@aaronmontes91)

Jess Mador, reporter for WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio. (@jessicamador)

Lois Beckett, senior reporter at The Guardian covering gun policy, criminal justice and the far right in the United States. (@loisbeckett)

J.M. Berger, research fellow at Vox-Pol, an organization focused on researching the prevalence and impact of violent online political extremism and responses to it. Author of "Extremism." (@intelwire)

Our Listeners Weigh In

Back-to-back mass shootings. Twenty people killed doing their Saturday shopping at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas.

"Certainly this community is rattled by what happened this weekend, simply because El Paso is known for its safety and known for being a peaceful place. So, people are still grappling with that," Montes told On Point's David Folkenflik.

Thirteen hours later, nine more people killed outside a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio.

"Yesterday afternoon there was a press briefing, one of many throughout the day," Mador said. "And Ohio senators, Congresspeople, other state representatives, and the governor himself, they came to this briefing and spoke about the need for a bipartisan conversation about mental health and guns.

"But there were a lot of thoughts and prayers, few details. And in Ohio, people here are pretty used to gun legislation failing in the legislature, so it’s unclear what might be able to pass. Although the governor has expressed support for one bill, a Red Flag law, which I know some other states have passed, which as I understand it would allow a court to confiscate a weapon from someone who may pose a threat. But, again, there’s nothing imminently passing."

Authorities say that the shooter in El Paso was an avowed white supremacist, targeting people of color and immigrants in his rhetoric and his shooting.

"This man drove from the heart of Texas all the way out to El Paso and chose this particular Wal-Mart, which is one of the busiest in the company and in the United States," Montes said.

We heard from our listeners in the communities affected by these shootings. Here's what they had to say about what's transpired over the last few days.

Mark, from Dayton, Ohio

"Frankly, I am afraid now. I used to be a little afraid. ... The day of the El Paso shooting, I told my wife, 'It’s only a matter of time before it happens here at home.' And then later on that evening, it happened at home. I am someone who suffers from mental issues and I take proper medication and I go to therapy ... this type of terrorism works. ... I used to work in the Oregon District, and I wanted to go to the vigil last night, but I couldn’t because I was too afraid someone would come and shoot that up."

"The day of the El Paso shooting, I told my wife, 'It’s only a matter of time before it happens here at home.' And then later on that evening, it happened at home."

On Point caller Mark, from Dayton, Ohio

Nancy, from Dayton, Ohio

"I was at the vigil last night and I was one of the voices that rose up and said, 'do something' — yelled, 'do something,' because what happened in Dayton is unconscionable. This needs to stop. Gov. DeWine has an abysmal record on gun control. We have seven pieces of legislation in our state house right now that are just stuck and he can do something, and we’re just calling out. I know people are saying that they’re angry that this got politicized, but that’s not what this is about. This is about the fact that nine people died."

Andrew, from Dayton, Ohio

"For me it’s just frustrating, being someone in the middle, not Republican or Democrat, that regardless of the party affiliations, white nationalist, domestic terrorism, antifa, we just can’t come together. No one seems to be able to make an agreement without blaming the NRA, the gunmakers, or something else. ... Dayton, Ohio, is where I grew up. Those bars spread along there in Oregon District are where I regularly go with my wife. So this hits home, and it’s just frustrating. Everyone just wants to yell and scream and point fingers rather than sitting at the table like an adult and actually doing something about it. ... I don’t want to take everybody’s guns away, but we definitely need to be smarter about how we access things."

"I know people are saying that they’re angry that this got politicized, but that’s not what this is about. This is about the fact that nine people died."

On Point caller Nancy, from Dayton, Ohio

Mark, from Springfield, Ohio

"My wife and I go to the Oregon District quite often for dinner and our friends play in bands down there. I watched the vigil last night and Dayton’s congressman Mike Turner was on stage talking about how shook up he was, about his daughters were in the area last night. But when Congress voted on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, to vote for enchanced background checks, both he and the congressman from Cinncinatti, Warren Davidson, both voted no. If people in the audience are saying, 'Well, we need change,' then let’s take a look at our representation, our people in Washington, not doing the things we’re asking for."

From The Reading List

El Paso Times: "El Paso shooting victim to be released from hospital, three remain in critical condition" — "A Del Sol Medical Center patient wounded in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso is expected to be released from the hospital later Sunday, according to hospital officials.

"Three victims remain in critical condition, said Dr. Stephen Flaherty, medical director of trauma at the Center, who hosted a news conference at the hospital Sunday morning with hospital CEO David Shimp.

"Eight of the 11 victims remain in stable condition.

"The hospital received the victims after the mass shooting at an East El Paso Walmart store located at 7101 Gateway West Blvd. The ages of the victims at Del Sol ranged between 35 and 82."

WYSO: "Investigation Ongoing In Early Morning Mass Shooting In Dayton's Oregon District" — "Police are continuing to investigate a mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon district overnight. 9 people were killed and 27 others were injured when a 24-year-old Bellbrook man opened fire outside Ned Peppers bar.

"Police say the gunman drove downtown with his sister, who was later killed in the shooting. He wore body armour, ear protection, and a mask. He carried out the attack with an assault rifle that was purchased online.

"Dayton Police officers on a routine patrol of the area shot and killed the suspect less than a minute after the attack began."

CNN: "Shooter's sister among 9 dead in Dayton, Ohio; 27 others injured" — "The gunman's sister was one of nine people killed in a shooting early Sunday in downtown Dayton, Ohio, police said.

At least 27 others were injured when Connor Betts, 24, fired an assault rifle in a popular nightlife district about 1 a.m., authorities said.

"Betts fired for less than a minute from a '.223 high-capacity' gun, and he had additional magazines with him, Mayor Nan Whaley said. The .223 caliber is used in rifles like the AR-15 assault rifle used in previous mass shootings.

"Deb Decker, public information officer for Montgomery County, said the shooter used an assault rifle.

"The event followed by 13 hours a shooting that left 20 dead in El Paso, Texas."

Washington Post: "Officials call El Paso shooting a domestic terrorism case, weigh hate crime charges" — "The attack on a Walmart and shopping center here, during which a gunman killed 20 people and wounded dozens, is being viewed as a domestic terrorist attack, authorities said Sunday.

"Federal authorities are 'seriously considering' bringing hate crime charges in the case, John F. Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said Sunday. Those charges could carry the death penalty. Local prosecutors also say they plan to seek a death sentence in the case.

"'We are treating it as a domestic terrorism case, and we’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country,' Bash said. 'Which is deliver swift and certain justice.' "

NBC News: "Mexico vows to take legal action against U.S. after deadly El Paso shooting" — "Mexico on Sunday threatened to take legal action against the United States for failing to protect its citizens after this weekend's mass shooting in the border city of El Paso.

"Of the 20 people gunned down at a Walmart at the Cielo Vista Mall, at least three were Mexican citizens, and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard promised Mexico City will act.

"Ebrard called Saturday's shooting an 'act of barbarism.' "

The New Yorker: "Opinion: The Mass Shootings in El Paso and Dayton Should Spur Democrats to Propose Big Ideas on Gun Violence" — "An hour into the first Democratic Presidential debate, in Miami, in June, Chuck Todd, one of the moderators, segued into what he called 'the gun question.' He pointed out that Parkland, Florida, where seventeen people were killed in a school shooting last year, was just fifty miles away, and that the outpouring of teen-age activism against gun violence that followed had inspired many on the stage to unveil 'robust plans' addressing the crisis. Todd mentioned the assault-weapons ban, a proposal supported by nearly all of the Democratic candidates, but asked Senator Elizabeth Warren what she believed the federal government should do about the 'hundreds of millions of guns already out there.'

"Todd’s question seemed to present Warren with a perfectly fitted moment for her credo, 'I’ve got a plan for that.' Guns killed nearly forty thousand people in the United States last year. In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that Americans were ten times more likely to die as a result of a firearm than residents of other high-income countries, as classified by the World Bank. The dismal statistic has an obvious correlation––the United States has the highest per-capita rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. A 2017 survey estimated that there are three hundred and ninety-three million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, twice that of the second-highest nation, Yemen.

"Yet Warren deflected in her response. She called gun violence a 'national health emergency in this country' and said, 'We need to treat it like that.' But her solutions felt milquetoast. 'We can do the universal background checks, we can ban the weapons of war, but we can also double down on the research and find out what really works, where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe,' Warren said. 'We need to treat this like the virus that’s killing our children.'

"A worthy soundbite, certainly, but it was an instance of uncharacteristic circumspection from Warren, who has set herself apart in the Democratic field with her detailed policy proposals, many of them breathtakingly ambitious. Todd was probing whether Warren might support a mandatory gun-buyback program, such as the one that Australia undertook in 1996, after a mass shooting there killed thirty-five people. (Researchers later found the effort was effective in reducing gun deaths.) Even after Todd pressed Warren a second time, she fell back on her 'treat it like a serious research problem' response.

"I thought of the moment at the debate on Saturday, when the news broke of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. A twenty-one-year-old gunman had opened fire with an assault rifle inside a crowded Walmart, killing at least twenty and injuring twenty-six others. On Sunday, I woke up to news of another massacre with an assault rifle, this time in Dayton, Ohio, in which at least nine people were killed and sixteen others wounded in less than a minute. Less than a week earlier, a nineteen-year-old man, also armed with an assault weapon, killed three people, including a six-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl, before shooting himself, at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks gun-related violence, the El Paso and Dayton shootings marked the two hundred and fiftieth and two hundred and fifty-first mass shootings of the year––a rate of more than one per day."

Grace Tatter produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on August 05, 2019.

This program aired on August 5, 2019.



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