Deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton prompted immediate outcry among candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Several of the contenders denounced President Trump for rhetoric they said foments violence and hatred. One of them, Rep. Tim Ryan, represents Ohio in Congress. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss “weapons of war” and whether there is hope for gun reform in Congress.
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The weekend's tragedies and the call since for policy changes have also become for now the dominant focus of the 2020 presidential campaign.
By and large, the candidates put their focus squarely on the president.
Here is some of what they had to say today.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:
Today, I say to Donald Trump, stop your anti-immigrant rhetoric. Stop the hatred.
Because that language, that hatred, that divisiveness creates a situation where certain people will do terrible things.
Mr. President, it's long past time you stood up to it. Mr. President, it's long past time you addressed it for what it is. This is hatred, pure and simple, and it's being fueled by rhetoric that is so divisive, and it's causing — causing people to die.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:
What happened in El Paso and in so many of the other shootings across the country, it was fueled by hate.
And no, Mr. President, as he said after Charlottesville, there are not two sides to the issue, when the other side is the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists. There is only one side.
Dayton, Ohio, is in the home state of another candidate for president, Representative Tim Ryan.
Ryan has suspended his presidential campaign in the wake of this weekend's shootings. He's also been in Dayton since yesterday.
And he joins me now.
Congressman Ryan, thank you for being here.
President Trump, we learned, is going to Dayton on Wednesday. Today, among other things, he said it's not mental illness and hate that pulled the trigger, it's the gun. He said, it's not the gun, rather, it's mental illness and hate.
How do you respond to that?
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio:
I'm furious about the whole thing, to be quite frank.
I think it is an insult to the victims, both here in Dayton and in El Paso and all the victims that have died in scenarios like this across the United States over the past many years, because we know that four out of five of these crimes has nothing to do with mental illness, that the vast majority of people and families that are dealing with mental illness, those people are not violent in any way, shape or form.
And this whole idea about video games, well, of course, we don't want our kids playing them too long to distract, because we know many people in other countries who have mental illness and who have played video games, they don't have this rate of crime.
The issue is the God-blessed gun and these weapons of war that are on the street slaughtering people in places like Dayton and El Paso. And if we don't close these loopholes and stop making these weapons of war, these crimes are not going to stop.
Well, as you know, the House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this year, Democratic majority. It has not moved in the Senate.
Are you hearing a clear message from voters in Ohio, in Dayton about what they think should be done?
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio:
We had a candlelight vigil last night. And I stayed here for two hours after.
And for anybody who wants to help Dayton, go to the Dayton Foundation Web site and make a donation to help the victims. There's kids who lost their father. And so go to the Dayton Foundation Web site and send some money in to help these families.
But I was here for two hours after. And I met more Republicans that were telling me to get something done, please, that this has gone too far.
And so when you hear that coming from a Democratic town in a Democratic county in Southwest Ohio, you know that we're reaching the point in this country where people are fed up. And the NRA-paid-off politicians like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and others in Republican leadership are going to get steamrolled.
Can it happen now or does it take some more time, I'm not sure. But we're going to apply as much pressure as we possibly can on these politicians who are carrying water for the gun manufacturers and the NRA. It's got to stop. And I think we're building more and more Republican support, although you may not see it reflected in their political leadership.
Well, I think we want to know if there's any single thing that can realistically happen.
For example, the governor of Ohio has been pushing the so-called red flag laws that enable weapons, firearms to be taken away from people who may present a danger to the community. This is something, you know, we haven't seen an appetite for nationally.
Do you think that tide is turning?
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio:
We will see about the red flag. Maybe, maybe, just maybe, God, we hope and pray that maybe there's a half-a-step we could take.
But I will be just clear. That is very, very inadequate. That is saying that, if you know somebody, if you think they may try to buy a gun, if, if, if, that maybe you can prevent it.
And what we're saying is, whoever goes to buy a gun, regardless of who they are, should get a background check. And that's the bill that's sitting at Mitch McConnell's doorstep right now, and it has the support of about 80 percent of the American people, over 70 percent of gun owners and hunters that also think that there should be a background check.
And yet Mitch McConnell won't bring it up for a vote. Now, to me, that is an insult to these people here who have lost lives. I mean, these people had hopes and dreams, they had plans, they had vacations, they have kids. You know, their kids had dads that they lost here.
This is just gut-wrenching. And to think people are being so inadequate in their response, and the president is the distracter in chief, more than anything else, because he wants to get everybody off talking about some of these issues like gaming, as opposed to dealing with the real issue, which is the weapon of war that slaughtered people both in El Paso and here in Dayton.
Congressman Tim Ryan with us tonight from Ohio, from Dayton.
Thank you, Congressman.