President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on Aug. 7 met with victims and thanked first responders and hospital staff at a Dayton hospital near the site of the shooting massacre that claimed the lives of 10 people.
Ned Peppers bar, where the shooting occurred on Aug. 4, is a five-minute drive from Miami Valley Hospital. The president and the first lady, accompanied by hospital executives, walked from room to room to visit the survivors.
“They’ve been stopping between rooms to thank the hardworking medical staff. Very powerful moments for all!” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote on Twitter.
A total of 27 people were injured during shooting, 14 of them by gunfire.
The president landed in Ohio shortly before 11 a.m. A small welcome party, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, shook hands and exchanged words with the president and first lady on the tarmac of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) was also part of the greeting party. Turner’s daughter, Jessica, joined him. She was in the Oregon District when the shooting happened on Aug. 3. The group then boarded a motorcade to the hospital.
Trump told reporters at the White House prior to his departure that “we’re going to take the opportunity to really congratulate the first responders.”
“It’s a terrific opportunity really to congratulate some of the police and law enforcement,” Trump said. “The job they’ve done was incredible. Really incredible.”
After Dayton, Trump will fly to El Paso, Texas, where another massacre claimed the lives of 22 people just 13 hours prior to the mass shooting in Dayton.
Trump has swiftly condemned both massacres, urged Americans to unite against the ideologies espoused by the killers and proposed measures to prevent future attacks.
The president told reporters at the White House prior to his departure that there is interest in Congress for legislation related to background checks for gun purchases but noted that the “political appetite” for banning “certain types of weapons.” The president said he may bring Congress back from recess to vote on a bill if there is enough support for the measure to merit doing so.
“I can tell you there is no political appetite for that at this moment … but I will certainly bring that up,” Trump said.
“There’s a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks,” the president added. “I think both Republicans and Democrats are getting close to a bill on—they’re doing something on background checks.”
Trump called the Democrats who have exploited the shootings to criticize him “political people.”
“My critics are political people. They’re trying to make points,” Trump said. “In many cases, they’re running for President and they’re very low in the polls.”
“So these are people that are looking for political gain. I don’t think they’re getting it. And, as much as possible, I’ve tried to stay out of that,” he added.
Within hours of the shootings, Democrats and establishment media personalities claimed, without evidence, that Trump’s rhetoric caused the killers to carry out their massacres.
“No, I don’t think my rhetoric has at all,” Trump said. “I think my rhetoric brings people together.”
Some of the president’s critics used out-of-context fragments of his comments on illegal immigration to allege that the president was inciting hatred and terrorism. The president has likened the mass of illegal crossings on the southwest border to an “invasion.” One of the definitions of “invasion” is “infringement by intrusion.”
“I think illegal immigration is a terrible thing for this country. I think you have to come in legally. Ideally, you have to come in through merit,” Trump said. “We need people coming in because we have many companies coming into our country. They’re pouring in.”
“We need strong immigration laws. But we want to allow millions of people to come in because we need them. We have companies coming in from Japan, all over Europe, all over Asia. They’re opening up companies here. They need people to work. We have a very low unemployment rate,” he added. “I think we need legal immigration, not illegal immigration.”
The president noted that the Dayton killer, Connor Betts, supported the Antifa extremist group and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Trump condemned Antifa and other hate groups.
“I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don’t like it,” Trump said. “Any group of hate—whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate—I am very concerned about it. And I’ll do something about it.”