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President Trump traveled to Dayton and El Paso Wednesday in the wake of weekend mass shootings in the two cities. Protesters gathered in both stricken communities before he arrived, while other residents expressed appreciation for his presence. 2020 Democrats, meanwhile, were united in criticizing Trump's incendiary rhetoric -- and calling for tighter gun regulations. Yamiche Alcindor reports.
Two cities united in their grief, but divided over condolences from the commander in chief.
Yamiche Alcindor reports on the latest from Dayton and El Paso.
Well before President Trump arrived, protesters in Dayton, Ohio, filled the streets. Some denounced his rhetoric on race and immigration, and demanded action to prevent gun violence.
The tempers flare, but, at the end of the day, how can we not be out here? And this is our city.
Others praised the president and welcomed his visit.
As he left the White House, President Trump said he hoped Congress could soon pass bipartisan gun legislation, though not a ban on assault weapons.
President Donald Trump:
I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate. There's a great appetite — and I mean a very strong appetite — for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we'd never had before.
The president also insisted his comments have not fueled hate.
No, I don't think my rhetoric has at all. I think my rhetoric is a very — it brings people together.
Critics say he is part of the problem, because in between today's visits, he criticized Democrats and doubled down on his hard-line immigration stance.
President Trump first stopped in Dayton, where a gunman fired an automatic weapon outside a popular bar early Sunday, killing nine people. The president and first lady went to a hospital where many people were treated. There, they thanked first responders and medical staff. They also met with some of the victims and their families.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside. Later, President Trump traveled to the Texas border city of El Paso, where Saturday's racially motivated shooting at a Walmart claimed 22 lives.
Trump is responsible.
An El Paso Strong rally was held at the same time to counter the president's visit. Many residents and Democratic lawmakers there, including El Paso native and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, had urged him to stay away.
O'Rourke attended a morning remembrance at a local high school.
What you are doing today here today, proudly and defiantly standing up against racism and hatred and terrorism, is the way forward for a United States of America that has never been more divided, more polarized than it is right now.
Meanwhile in Iowa, former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sounded off. He insisted President Trump bears some responsibility for inflaming tensions.
Trump offers no moral leadership. He seems to have no interest in unifying this nation. No evidence that the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.
Indeed, we have a president with a toxic tongue, who's publicly and unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism and division.
Other Democratic candidates also demanded urgent action on gun control. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker spoke at an historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, where, in 2015, nine people were killed in a racist attack.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:
There's no neutrality in this fight. You are either an agent of justice or you are contributing to the problem. Addressing this — we must understand this — addressing this is not an act of charity or philanthropy. It is an issue of national security.
During a speech in Washington, Montana Governor Steve Bullock made a case for banning high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Gov. Steve Bullock:
Let me say that, as a hunter, no real hunter needs a 30-round clip. No real hunter needs a weapon of war. No real hunter needs a bump stock.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
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