Donald Trump denounced white supremacy on Monday as he addressed a nation reeling from two mass shootings which left at least 30 dead, but blamed mental illness and the internet rather than gun control laws.
The US president vowed his administration would "act with urgent resolve" in the aftermath of the tragedies in Texas and Ohio over the weekend which he condemned as "two evil attacks".
Mr Trump said there was a need for reforms to mental health laws but was criticised for suggesting “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun”.
He blamed violent video games, the "dark recesses of the internet" and social media companies, which he said must do more to identify and predict such threats.
"We must recognise that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalised disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” Mr Trump said.
President Trump Delivers Remarks https://t.co/sSVPZM8ypj
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 5, 2019
He focused his attention on the "wicked man" who slaughtered 22 people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on Saturday.
The suspect, Patrick Crusius, is believed to have penned a lengthy racist manifesto which appeared online shortly before the massacre and claimed the shooting was a response to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
In a televised address from the White House, Mr Trump said: "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul."
Mr Trump said he would direct the Department of Justice to draft legislation ensuring that perpetrators of hate crimes and mass murders "face the death penalty" shortly after being convicted.
He also sent his condolences to Mexico for the loss of seven of its citizens in the shooting. It came after the country demanded further protections for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in the US and even threatened legal action over the attack.
Marcelo Ebrard, the country’s foreign minister, suggested Mexican authorities could seek to extradite the gunman on a terrorism charge as well as planning legal action against the seller of the assault weapon used in the shooting.
During his address on Monday, Mr Trump called the shooting an act of "domestic terrorism" and said the FBI would devote further resources to preventing such attacks in future.
Mr Trump outlined a number of possible steps, including "red-flag laws" which seek to better identify mentally ill people who should be disqualified from purchasing firearms.
Mass shootings have become more frequent in the US
A verbal slip-up in which he mistakenly offered prayers for "those who perished in Toledo" rather than Dayton, Ohio where a gunman killed nine people on Sunday also drew criticism.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Trump had called for bipartisan action to enact "strong background checks" and along with stronger immigration laws but did not elaborate on further screenings during his public address.
Mr Trump’s televised comments were quickly rebuked by Democrats, who accused the president of lacking a coherent plan to tackle gun violence.
We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
A sweeping bipartisan gun control bill which requires universal background checks passed the House six months ago but the Republican-controlled Senate did not consider either bill and Mr Trump previously suggested he would veto the legislation.
In a joint statement yesterday, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrats in Congress, called on Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell to pass the bills already approved by the House.
"It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation," they said. "When he can’t talk about guns when he talks about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA."
Former president, Barack Obama, entered the debate with a thinly-veiled attack on Mr Trump on Twitter.
"We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred, or normalises racist sentiments; leaders who demonise those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people," he tweeted.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 5, 2019
"Such language isn’t new – it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world.
"It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.
"It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much – clearly and unequivocally."