What will prevent white nationalist attacks?

The 360 features diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What's happening:

The mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people and wounded more than two dozen is the latest act of violence in which the alleged perpetrator was apparently motivated by white nationalism.

An online post believed to have been published by the suspected gunman minutes before the shooting referenced a right-wing extremist concept known as the “great replacement” of white people by minorities and stated the attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Because of that shared doctrine, the El Paso attack has been linked to recent shootings in Poway, Calif., Pittsburgh and Christchurch, New Zealand. The FBI recently identified white supremecy as a key element in most of its domestic terrorism cases.

Law enforcement has not yet determined a motive in the Dayton, Ohio, shooting on Sunday that killed nine people. The FBI said Tuesday in a press conference that there is evidence the attacker was "exploring violent ideologies," but stopped short of connecting that evidence to the shooting.

President Trump, who has come under fire of late for his attacks on lawmakers of color, condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” in an address on Monday. Former President Barack Obama issued a statement assailing “language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”

Why there’s debate:

Like many mass shootings, the attacks in Texas and Ohio spurred a call for more gun control and criticism of the politicians who hold gun legislation back. But the ideology of the El Paso shooting suspect has led to a further debate about how to root out violence specifically inspired by racist beliefs.

Trump blamed violent video games, radicalization via the internet and insufficient mental health care as causes of the attacks. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said.

Others argue that the U.S. government must recognize these attacks as acts of terror — and utilize some of the techniques behind the war on terror — to stop them. Federal officials currently have much more latitude to disrupt suspected foreign terror plots than domestic ones.

Trump’s critics argue that he has fueled white nationalist sentiment through his verbal attacks on immigrants and his administration’s aggressive immigration policies. Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in the House of Representatives, said Trump's behavior “fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence.”

What’s next:

The FBI has warned that the El Paso shooting may inspire more extremists to “engage in similar acts of violence.” Democrats have called for the Senate to cancel its August recess to consider gun background check legislation, which Trump on Monday suggested he would support.


The U.S. must enact “red flag” laws to identify potential attackers

“It seems to me that one thing most people do agree on is that these murders are carried out by sick, evil individuals who absolutely should not have access to guns. So, let’s start by focusing on that, policies like red flag laws that get guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.” — Steve Hilton, Fox News

“Red flag” laws can’t be considered an effective measure to prevent violence

“These efforts to figure out in advance which people might commit violent crimes -- it’s not that none are worthwhile, but I think people tend to overestimate their efficacy and underestimate collateral effects they’re likely to have on civil rights.” — Josh Barro, New York magazine columnist

Trump must stop his anti-immigrant rhetoric

“Donald Trump, dumping on immigrants all the time, creates an atmosphere where some people interpret that to be an okay sign for violence against immigrants.” — Leonard Zeskind, white nationalism expert to Washington Post

Gun control would limit all shootings, regardless of extremist ideology

“America doesn’t have a monopoly on racism, sexism, other kinds of bigotry, mental illness, or violent video games. All of those things exist in countries across the world, many with much less gun violence. What is unique about the US is that it makes it so easy for people with any motive or problem to obtain a gun.” — German Lopez, Vox

The U.S. must address the issues of guns and racism together

“We have a gun problem. We have a white supremacy problem. They are increasingly intertwined. We need to respond to each of them legislatively and culturally, without fear or intimidation.” — David Atkins, Washington Monthly

The U.S. must treat white nationalism as a domestic terror threat

“It’s time to declare war on white-nationalist terrorism. ... Just as we demanded from our Muslim allies a legal and cultural response to the hate in their midst, we should demand a legal and cultural response to the terrorists from our own land.” — David French, National Review

“War on terror” tactics will be tough to carry out on U.S. citizens

“A new focus on white-supremacist violence would test whether Americans are as accepting of aggressive law enforcement tactics when the targets aren’t Muslims, but white Americans.” — New York Times

Americans need to be honest about who we are

“It is past time to admit that this is precisely who we are: a nation that willingly trades the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians for unencumbered access to the weapons best suited to slaughter them. Only when we come to terms with that fact — when we, our public officials and ourselves, stop deluding one another about it — will we have a chance to change it.” — Nestor Ramos, Boston Globe

Intervention by mental health professionals could steer potential attackers away from violence

“Proactive violence prevention starts with schools, colleges, churches and employers initiating conversations about mental health and establishing systems for identifying individuals in crisis, reporting concerns and reaching out — not with punitive measures but with resources and long-term intervention. Everyone should be trained to recognize the signs of a crisis.” — Jillian Peterson and James Densley, Los Angeles Times

Blaming the attacks on mental health is misguided and harmful

“It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent and far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence.” — American Psychiatric Association

The media has a responsibility to keep the issue in the news

“The media can set an agenda by forcing our leaders to set an agenda. To do that, these difficult topics can’t be discussed only in the hours following these shootings — when emotions and divisiveness are at their most volatile — but in the weeks and months after that.” — Tom Jones, Poynter Institute

Shutting down sites like 8chan that foment extremism can prevent radicalization

“It is very, very hard for anonymous hate forums to keep casual members around if forced to migrate, or let users know where to go when they’re shut down overnight. Diehard online extremists can organize, but the pool of recruits dwindles after bans like this, the research shows.” — Ben Collins, NBC News reporter

Sharing “manifestos” of attackers only perpetuates the ideology of hate

“The more oxygen these manifestos get, the wider their messages spread. And no one understands that better than the alleged shooters themselves.” — Brian Barrett, Wired

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