Eleven individuals were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. The assailant, a 46-year-old white man with anti-Semitic views, was determined to take out his hatred in the vilest of ways possible, reportedly using an AR-15-style weapon in order to do so, according to reporting from the New York Times.
Following horrific events like these, it helps to have a president in office who can guide our nation toward a path of healing. Sadly, we have an inept chief executive, someone who exudes ignorance as well as tactlessness in the face of such difficult circumstances.
President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters in the aftermath of the mass shooting, demonstrated he lacked a basic understanding about the bigotry presently faced by Jewish people in the United States today.
“It looks definitely like it’s an anti-Semitic crime. That is something you wouldn’t believe could still be going on,” the Hill reported Trump as saying.
Trump’s ignorance here is galling. According to hate crime statistics from the FBI in 2016, violent acts against Jewish individuals accounted for about 53 percent of all hate crimes that had a religious motivation behind them in that year. For any president to act as though this phenomenon is surprising should be cause for concern.
Trump also made clear he didn’t take the matter completely serious. Speaking to the Future Farmers of America just hours after the attack happened, Trump made a joke about the weather, complaining that he had to speak to reporters about the killings while outside where it was raining, causing him to have a “bad hair day.”
“At least you know it’s mine,” Trump quipped, according to reporting from the Washington Times.
Asked about ways to prevent violence like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, President Trump suggests stiffening death penalty laws: "I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue" https://t.co/rldHevHSsX pic.twitter.com/dCNI8JLfFm— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 27, 2018
These cringe-worthy moments by Trump are bad enough on their own. Yet when it comes to solutions on how to prevent such massacres from happening in the future, Trump again demonstrated his ignorance on the issue. He explained, for example, that one of the best ways to prevent mass shootings was to put more guns in the hands of people or to have armed guards at the doors of places of worship across the country.
“If they have some kind of protection inside the temple maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t,” Trump said, based on reporting from CBS News.
A plan like that is simply not feasible. Tasking Americans with arming themselves wherever they go, including places of worship, puts more guns in places people don’t want them to be to begin with. It also creates an “arms race” of sorts, because bigoted individuals would not be deterred by the possibility that someone might have a gun inside — they would essentially just resolve themselves to getting better guns, creating a better plan of attack, and so forth. These are, after all, individuals who in many cases are expecting to be killed by police anyway as a result of their actions.
At any rate, Pennsylvania law already allows individuals to carry a concealed weapon in a place of worship, as do most U.S. states, according to USACarry.com.
Aside from the errant solution of more guns, Trump offered up another way to supposedly stop mass shooters and domestic terrorists from killing, by enforcing the death penalty in harsher and more expedient ways.
“When people do this they should get the death penalty. And they shouldn’t have to wait years and years,” Trump said. He added that we should “bring the death penalty into vogue.”
Yet that again won’t work. We know that the death penalty doesn’t function as a proper deterrent against violent criminal behavior. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, in every year (from 1990 to 2016) states that had the death penalty in place had higher rates of violent crimes than states that did not have a death penalty. In 2016 alone, death penalty states had crime rates that were 25 percent higher than non-death penalty states. If the death penalty truly were a way to deter crime, you’d see the opposite results.
Trump showcased his inability to lead the nation following Saturday’s attacks in multiple ways. He made jokes about it and he showed a deep misunderstanding on how prevalent anti-Semitism is in this country. He also offered up two solutions, neither of which will do anything to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Americans deserve a president that can be more intelligent and aware of these kinds of problems facing our nation. Unless Trump does a better job educating himself on these matters, it doesn’t seem the citizenry will have that kind of president again until the current one is out of office.