Over the span of 13 hours, the country was shaken by two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where a total of 29 people were killed. Shortly before the attack, the El Paso gunman posted an anti-immigrant manifesto on the far-right message board 8chan, while there is still no clear motive for the Dayton shooting. Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democratic leaders are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a special session of the Senate to vote on two gun safety bills recently passed in the House. This all comes as the National Rifle Association is imploding. We speak with Alex Yablon, a reporter at The Trace, a news outlet devoted to gun-related news.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue to look at this weekend’s deadly gun violence in this country. Over the span of 13 hours, the country was shaken by two mass shootings. An anti-immigrant white supremacist gunman shot dead 20 people, overwhelmingly Latino, in a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Thirteen hours later, a gunman who had a history of threatening women shot dead nine people, including his own sister, outside a bar in Dayton. Most of the victims were African-American.
President Trump briefly spoke of the killings Sunday, didn’t mention guns, domestic terror or white nationalism. Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democratic lawmakers are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a special session of the Senate to vote on two gun safety bills recently passed in the House.
This all comes as the NRA, the National Rifle Association, is imploding.
We’re joined now by Alex Yablon, a reporter at The Trace, a news outlet devoted to gun-related news, his most recent piece headlined “Mass Shootings Are Destroying Our Sense of Public Space.”
Alex, thanks for being with us. And thank you for your news organization, for The Trace. Start off — we talked a lot about El Paso. What do we know about Dayton, about the killings that took place, I mean, hours after what happened in El Paso?
ALEX YABLON: So, in contrast to the El Paso shooting, the Dayton shooting does not appear to be ideologically motivated. Instead, it’s more in line with past mass shootings we’ve seen where a young man has a history of anti-social and threatening behavior —
AMY GOODMAN: Young white man.
ALEX YABLON: A young white man, who then lashes out in public. It emerged that he was suspended from high school after compiling a kill list or rape list of young women that were in his school. That’s the kind of thing that in a state with a red flag law, which is a procedure that allows a judge to order a seizure of someone’s guns, even if they’re legally owned, if you can demonstrate that that person presents an imminent threat to themselves or others — that could have been the basis for a red flag seizure, a complaint. But Ohio does not have a red flag law, though Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, actually backs one. So, right now, aside from the actual act itself, there doesn’t appear to be any kind of ideological tie between the two incidents.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, also in this case — and you often have this in these cases, whether white supremacist or not, these white young men often have a link to, in addition to white supremacy, violence against women. This one is just very clear with his killing of his own sister, who was at the area in Dayton with a friend.
ALEX YABLON: Yeah, misogyny is a really clear link between so many mass shootings that we’ve seen. One of the biggest warning signs or risk factors for mass shootings or any other kind of shooting is a past history of threats or violent behavior. And the way that violent individuals behave, they go through patterns of escalation. And it usually starts with those closest to them, either family members, dating partners, spouses or classmates. So, it’s not surprising at all, unfortunately, to see that the suspect in Dayton had this history of intimidating and threatening people that he knew.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get to what seems to have held back so many Democratic, and maybe Republican, legislators, at state level and in Congress. And that is the power of the NRA pouring money into elections. Apparently they poured less money in in November than, you know, the gun control groups, but now also are going through a massive spasm, a kind of implosion. Can you talk about what has happened at the NRA?
ALEX YABLON: Sure. So, the NRA is in very deep crisis. It went from the apogee of its powers in 2016, when it spent more than any other single special interest group to back President Trump and congressional Republicans’ election efforts, to a deep fiscal crisis, accusations of profound corruption at the top of the organization and self-dealing, not to mention just run-of-the-mill financial mismanagement. Longtime figures in the group, like Chris Cox, who was the top lobbyist and was largely — was widely seen as the likely next leader of the group, were forced out, as well as a number of board members.
So, basically, this all stems from some reporting by my colleague Mike Spies and many other reporters, that found that for a long time the group has had an unusually close relationship with its top vendor, which is an ad firm called Ackerman McQueen, that has worked with the NRA since the late ’80s, basically as long as Wayne LaPierre has been in charge. And it’s very difficult to say where the NRA began — where the NRA ended and Ackerman McQueen ended — and Ackerman McQueen began. A lot of figures who were sort of some of the most well-known public faces of the NRA, such as Dana Loesch, were actually Ackerman McQueen employees, who worked on behalf of the NRA through projects like NRATV, which is now shut down. Basically, the group’s accountants and some board members found out that there was no due diligence being performed on these contracts, which had gone — which had ballooned to $40 million a year.
AMY GOODMAN: We have 20 seconds.
ALEX YABLON: And those who have raised concerns about it have been forced out of the organization.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to do Part 2 of this conversation and put it online at democracynow.org. But this seems to be a key moment for gun control groups. I mean, you even have the New York Post front page today — as you were coming here at Democracy Now!, you might have seen “Ban Weapons of War.” And we’re going to talk more about that at democracynow.org. Alex Yablon, reporter at The Trace. His most recent piece, we’ll link to, “Mass Shootings Are Destroying Our Sense of Public Space.” I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.