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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez called for the Senate to take action on gun control in the wake of two mass shootings that left at least 30 dead and dozens more injured this weekend.
“It’s past time that we do more than thoughts and prayers to all of the victims and their families in these communities,” Menendez said during a press gaggle in Camden Monday morning. “It’s time we make them safer. We can do that. We can do that. We just have to have our colleagues break away from the shackles of the [National Rifle Association]. Reasonable gun safety owners actually support reasonable gun safety measures, so we should listen to their voices and the overwhelming number of Americans who believe in that.”
On Sunday, a masked gunman wielding a rifle fitted with a 100-round gun magazine opened fire in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring at least 27 others.
A day earlier, a 21-year-old gunman killed at least 21 people in an El Paso, Texas, shopping center. Authorities said 26 others were injured.
Investigators believe the El Paso gunman posted a white-supremacist manifesto on 8chan, an online message board, before carrying out the massacre.
Numerous Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker have laid the blame for the shooting at President Donald Trump’s feet, saying that the latter’s stoking of bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiments propelled the shooter to action.
“It seems to me that when the president speaks about these things and then talks about racism, the reality is that, unfortunately, the president’s remarks consistently raise the level of intolerance in our country,” Menendez said. “And instead of being the great uniter, he is the ultimate divider.”
After remaining silent on the shootings during the weekend, which he spent golfing and attending weddings at his Bedminster golf resort, Trump said the country must condemn white supremacy.
The president made no mention of gun control in his Monday speech.
“Mental health and hate pull the trigger, not the gun,” he said.
Trump did not take questions following the speech.
Menendez was less willing to lay the blame for the shootings at Trump’s feet, but he did say that the president’s rhetoric helped enable the shooters.
“I’m not saying that he’s to blame for these shootings,” Menendez said. “But I am saying that when you create an environment in which you create divisive, racist, xenophobic comments, that you allow those who might have those shared views and who believe that they should act on it, that you create the environment where that is maybe more possible.”