'Your prayers aren't working': Michigan lawmakers react to mass shootings in Ohio, Texas

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Rene Aguilar and Jackie Flores pray at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019.

Following 31 deaths in a pair of mass shootings over the weekend, mourners and activists in El Paso and Dayton called for action on gun reform measures from Congress, as lawmakers retreated to familiar positions on gun violence. 

Republicans expressed support for the victims' families and thanked first responders. Democrats said Congress is overdue to adopt decisive measures on gun control. 

"The people of El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH witnessed such unspeakable acts of evil this weekend," GOP Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton said. "Our nation mourns for these communities and is praying for the families who lost a loved one."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, responded to Republican leaders on Twitter by saying, "Your prayers aren't working."

"251 mass shootings in the United States in 216 days," Tlaib said, referring to data from the Gun Violence Archive for 2019.

"Prayers aren't cutting it Senator. We need you to serve the people, not gun lobbyists," she added, directing her tweet to GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.

President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday condemned the "racist" statement posted by the El Paso gunman, even as critics noted how the shooter's language echoed Trump's own warnings of a Texas "invasion" by migrants. 

"The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," Trump said, reading from a teleprompter.

"These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred, works the mind ravages the heart and devours the soul."

U.S. Reps Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, left, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, are among those who responded to the shootings on social media.

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, cautioned that politicizing mass shootings doesn't solve the problem. 

"We cannot allow the blind hatred and disregard for innocent life to be the new normal. We need to find out how and why individuals in our society are being radicalized and committing these horrific acts," Huizenga wrote on Facebook.

"The tone and tenor of how we discuss these serious societal and policy issues also matters. Those seeking to politicize these tragedies make it more difficult to address the underlying causes."

The shootings in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday and Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday killed at least 31 and injured dozens of others.

In El Paso, a 21-year-old man is accused of opening fire inside a busy Walmart store, killing 22 and injuring more after allegedly posting a screed online about immigrants and saying "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." 

Hours later in Dayton, nine died at the hands of a gunman with a military-style rifle before police shot him as he tried to get into a popular bar.  

Rep. Fred Upton, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said "enough is enough."

Upton, R-St. Joseph, renewed his call for lawmakers to adopt a so-called red-flag law to allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people at risk of harming themselves or others.

"Common sense red-flag laws — with stringent due process and probable cause — prevent those in imminent danger to themselves or others to have firearms," said Upton, who has introduced such a bill in the House with Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. 

"Law enforcement remains on the front-lines & ensuring they have another tool in their tool box would further help them."

Trump in his Monday remarks noted his support for red-flag laws and urged lawmakers to “come together” on legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchasers.

"We must make sure that those judged to be a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process," Trump said. 

The president stopped short of calling for more sweeping gun reform, instead endorsing action on mental illness and video game violence, and said he wants to develop "tools" for detecting mass shooters on social media before they strike. 

"Mental Illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," Trump said.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, urged action on gun control on Twitter.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, noted that the Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation on universal background checks, but the GOP-led Senate has not taken up the bill. Kildee blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.  

"We are not helpless. We have the ability to act & prevent more deaths," Kildee tweeted.

Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, who has co-sponsored a bill to expand background checks, urged McConnell to allow a vote on the legislation "as a first step."

"If two mass shootings in less than 24 hours doesn't convince you that we need to do more as a country to combat gun violence, I don't know what will. This is an epidemic," Peters tweeted.