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Sunday Politics


Joining me now is NPR correspondent Susan Davis. Good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you heard Beto O'Rourke there specifically call out the president. What are we likely to hear from Republicans today?

DAVIS: Well, we have already heard from the president in terms of the Texas shooting. He did respond on Twitter just calling it a hateful act. I'm sure following the back-to-back shootings, it will elevate the need for a presidential response. I think we still have so many unknowns about the motives and what exactly played out. Those factors will change how both the president and Washington responds. You know, we can say that these moments are tricky for Trump. These moments where requiring sort of a national empathetic response have not always been his natural strength. If anything, these have been moments that have proven difficult in his presidency. If you recall after the Charlottesville - the white nationalist uprising there that led to deaths, he gave a very controversial response in which he had praised very fine people on both sides. That prompted rounds of condemnation of its own.

At the same time, after the high school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he gave a more robust response. He had a big event at the White House talking about gun violence and the need to do more and has at times been sympathetic to the idea of changing gun laws in this country, although, ultimately, during his administration, nothing has changed or nothing major has changed in terms of gun laws.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Susan, I want to talk a little bit about the investigation into the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, which is just beginning because this happened overnight. Can you tell us what we know so far?

DAVIS: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley had a press conference this morning. She did confirm 10 were dead, including the shooter, who was killed by police; another 26 were injured. The shooting took place outside of a bar around 1 a.m. People were lined up outside. The mayor did note that this was the 250th shooting in America so far this year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when we look at that number, which is an extraordinary number, you know, these shootings are, again, prompting calls, mainly from Democrats, to change gun laws. Are we likely to see the same cycle of response?

DAVIS: Probably because this is a very familiar thing. You know, I've covered the response to probably 10 or more mass shooting events in the past decade. And there's a very familiar battle line of how people view these things. I do think in this circumstance we may be seeing a bit of a different debate because of the Texas shooting and the questions raised about whether or not this was a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism, which is...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Because it's two different things, right?

DAVIS: Two different things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's gun violence and then there's hate crimes. And they intersect, but they're not the same.

DAVIS: And as we heard from the congressman - or the former congressman - we are already seeing reactions questioning the president, what his administration has done to combat white nationalism, if anything, if he's done anything to fuel it. The Democratic presidential candidates, others including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, have accused the president of using hateful rhetoric. And it does come at a time where there is a rise in racial tension and white nationalist violence in this country. FBI Director Christopher Wray was on Capitol Hill less than two weeks ago in which he said they had made at least a hundred domestic terror arrests since just October. The majority of them were related to white supremacist violence. So it is coming at a time where both gun laws are an intractable debate in this country and racial tensions are at a - I don't want to say an all-time high but are certainly elevated at this very moment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so how does that affect the political calculus in Washington at this particular time? We are seeing Democrats obviously trying to get the nomination for the Democratic presidency and also of course Republicans running into 2020.

DAVIS: You know, I don't want to be overly political in moments like this because back-to-back mass shootings are absolutely tragedies, but they are moments where a country looks at their leaders and says, what kind of leaders do we have? And I think you see people like Beto O'Rourke leaving the campaign trail to go back to El Paso where he is not an elected official anymore but is - sees this as a moment to show what kind of leader he will be. And events like this have the event of sort of shaking the news cycle or shaking the conversation in this country in ways that politicians weren't anticipating. So I think the response to this, especially as we know more about what happened, especially of in Texas and if there was any hate-related motivations in Ohio, could prompt a conversation in this country that people weren't necessarily anticipating.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was NPR correspondent Susan Davis. Thank you so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.