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Dayton’s mayor on her grieving community, gun control and Trump’s visit

On Wednesday, President Trump traveled to Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people and wounded 26 early Sunday morning. Ahead of his visit, Mayor Nan Whaley expressed concerns about the president’s previous rhetoric and said she hoped his visit would “add value” to the grieving community. Whaley joins William Brangham to discuss what she told Trump about her stricken city and gun safety.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two views now from leaders in the two cities where the president visited today.

    William Brangham has those.

  • William Brangham:

    President Trump's first stop today was in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people and wounded 26 others early Sunday morning.

    Ahead of his visit, Mayor Nan Whaley said she felt it is her duty to welcome the president, and that she hoped he was coming to add value to our community.

    Mayor Nan Whaley joins me now.

    Mayor, thank you very much for being here. And, again, on behalf of all of us, our condolences to you and what your town has been going through.

    Before we talk about the president's visit, I'm just curious how Dayton is doing now.

  • Nan Whaley:

    Well, I think we're a little tired here in Dayton. You know, we have gotten an awful lot of press coverage.

    And most of the reporters around town have talked about how great and gracious day Daytonians have been. But we're in the process of really getting to really undergo some serious grieving. The visitations and funerals will be starting in the next few days. And we're just trying to keep our community together.

  • William Brangham:

    And we saw that you visited some victims of this massacre with the president today.

    How did that visit go?

  • Nan Whaley:

    Oh, the president was very well-received by the victims and the first responders. We saw the guys that were so heroic on the streets, on Fifth Street, that Saturday night, they were super grateful to see the president of the United States, and lots of pictures all around for those folks.

  • William Brangham:

    You had said in advance of the president's visit that you had hoped — you had said that his rhetoric has been painful for many in our community, meaning your community.

  • Nan Whaley:


  • William Brangham:

    What did you mean specifically by that?

  • Nan Whaley:

    Well, I will just say that, when the president announced he was coming Tuesday, you could just feel a tension in the community that we really hadn't experienced before that.

    And I think that is not anything he said specifically today or yesterday. It's just three years of this hyperpartisan way that he works, and that's painful for some people in the community.

    I am glad the president went, when he decided to come, that he decided to go and focus really on the victims and the first responders. I appreciate that he didn't go to the Oregon District.

    And, actually, the Oregon District was pretty tense today during his visit, with both pro-Trump and anti-Trump people walking the streets. And so that's what I mean, when his rhetoric is just so hot.

  • William Brangham:

    Did his visit today and in your conversations with him, did you communicate those concerns to him? Did he assuage any of your concerns about his rhetoric and how he has governed?

  • Nan Whaley:

    Look, my focus has actually been on just getting something done around gun control.

    And so my conversation with the president wasn't anything to do with his rhetoric, but everything about getting something done when it comes to commonsense gun legislation, and really trying to see if there was a way forward to be truly bipartisan.

    And, frankly, that's just something we haven't seen for a very long time in Washington, D.C.

  • William Brangham:

    I mean, as you know, the people who watch how gun legislation has risen and fallen in Washington, D.C., especially after the Sandy Hook massacre, where all those children were killed…

  • Nan Whaley:


  • William Brangham:

    … and people said, if nothing can happen after that event, what makes you think something is different now?

  • Nan Whaley:

    Well, you know, I'm a person of hope.

    And I know that Dayton was the 250th mass shooting in the country this year. And so we are getting to the place where every single community has experienced some sort of gun violence that could have been preventable.

    When so many people experience it, I think more and more Americans make it a higher priority. And I think we're seeing that, as you look at polls, where the majority of Americans are for an assault weapons ban; 90 percent of Ohioans are for universal background checks.

    Those are enormous numbers. And, really, the NRA and their money can only hold us out for so long.

  • William Brangham:

    From your conversations with the president today, did you get a sense he would push that?

    Because our understanding is that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said he won't bring any bills to the Senate floor that he doesn't think the president will support.

    Did you try to persuade the president today that this is something he has to get behind?

  • Nan Whaley:


    Senator Brown and I towards the end said: "Hey, why don't you consider an assault weapons ban?"

    The president pointed out that President Obama let the assault weapons ban lapse. And I said to the president: "Hey, maybe this is something that you could get done that President Obama couldn't get done. That would be something spectacular," pointing out that Senator DeWine had even voted for the assault weapon ban.

    The president pivoted and said he was going to do something terrific for our first responders who he had just met.

    And Senator Brown eloquently said: "The best thing you could do for our first responders is get these guns off the street, so they don't have to fight them anymore."

  • William Brangham:

    One of my colleagues, Yamiche, was in your town a few days ago. And she spoke to some of your constituents.

  • Nan Whaley:

    Yes. Yes.

  • William Brangham:

    And she spoke with one young man who said his fear was that, once the cameras go, once the attention dies down, that all of this talk of reform and change and do something will disappear with it.

    I know you said that you're a hopeful person, but where does that hope come from?

  • Nan Whaley:

    Well, we are seeing some marginal difference around gun control.

    I talked to Mayor Bloomberg a few days ago, who is the godfather of this work for mayors. He said, we're making some progress. Indiana has a red flag law. The governor here is going to introduce a red flag law. It's a Republican governor.

    We're starting to see change. Is it as fast as I would like? Absolutely not. But I think, after you go through one of these mass shootings, it changes the community, and it changes your perspective around commonsense gun legislation, too.

    And let me be clear. Doing something is not about video games. This whole farce around video games being the reason why we suddenly have mass shootings is a fool's errand.

    One example is, the most aggressive video games in the world are actually in Japan, and last I have seen, they don't have the mass shooting problem that we do have here in America.

  • William Brangham:

    Mayor Nan Whaley, good luck with your community and with all the grieving that I know you guys are all — have in front of you.

    Thank you very much for being here.

  • Nan Whaley:

    Thank you.

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