Politicians in both parties reacted quickly to Thursday night’s police murders in Dallas.
“Deeply troubling and disheartening,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.
“We must heal the gaping wounds in this country with trust and respect,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, like Cleaver a Democrat.
“Violence and hate will not bring justice,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.
The words may sound familiar. Republicans and Democrats have issued similar statements after horrific mass killings in Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Sandy Hook and other places.
And as was the case after those shootings, America’s political community showed few signs of moving beyond the words to find solutions to the outbreak of murderous violence in the United States.
Speaking from Poland, President Barack Obama said Americans were “horrified” by the Dallas police killings.
“We also know that when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic,” Obama said. “And in the days ahead, we’re going to have to consider those realities as well.”
The mention of weapons prompted a sharp rebuke from some Republicans, who accused Obama of politicizing the tragedy.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Friday called for a criminal justice overhaul and additional gun control measures.
Speaking to a mostly black audience at the African Methodist Episcopal Church conference in the Philadelphia Convention Center, she said: “All these things can be true at once. We do need police and criminal justice reforms to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated equally in rights and dignity. We do need to support police departments that stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. And we do need to reduce gun violence.”
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in a statement Friday: “This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion.” His statement also referred to the “senseless” police shootings of African-Americans in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, incidents that some believe may have partially provoked the carnage in Dallas on Thursday night.
In a brief video released Friday evening, Donald Trump told Americans that the attack on police officers at a peaceful protest in Dallas on Thursday “is an attack on our country and an attack on our families.” He added that racial division in the United States has worsened and that “too many Americans are living in terrible poverty and violence.”
On Friday, Trump’s Virginia chairman blamed “liberal politicians” for the Dallas massacre. The statement was quickly rejected by the campaign.
But the political impact of Trump’s cooler rhetoric won’t be clear for some time, analysts said.
Voters frustrated with contemporary politics have been drawn to his campaign, and unrest is often a feature of his rallies, said Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka. That may be part of Trump’s appeal, and he risks alienating some supporters if he backs away from his aggressive tone.
“When you have an angry message, whether you want to or not, you attract angry people,” Beatty said.
There’s no evidence, he said, that the Dallas shooting will permanently change the tone of Trump’s campaign.
That’s also true among candidates in other races.
Eric Greitens, a Republican candidate for Missouri governor, began his television advertising campaign with the candidate shooting a rapid-fire rifle, leading to an explosion in a field. He has raised money by offering a fictional ISIS “hunting license.”
Asked Friday if that imagery and rhetoric might contribute to an atmosphere of violence, Greitens spokesman Austin Chambers said no.
“A political advertisement with a Navy SEAL holding a weapon used to kill terrorists is far different than a terrorist using a weapon to kill innocent people or a murderer ambushing police officers in a cold-blooded execution,” he said.
A spokesman for John Brunner, also a Republican candidate for Missouri governor, agreed.
“The fault for the horrific acts of terrorism and violence we’ve seen in Dallas and other cities lies exclusively with the depraved individuals who carried them out, not with any images in any campaign ads,” spokesman Michael Hafner said.
Catherine Hanaway, a Republican candidate for Missouri governor, has carried a shotgun in a commercial. Spokesman Nick Maddux said “absolutely not” when asked if that image might be too violent for a political campaign.
Peter Kinder spokeswoman Pam Dixon criticized “cheap stunts and ridiculous gimmickry” in campaign ads, then said: “Kinder’s record of fighting for our Second Amendment rights speaks for itself.”
In a statement, likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster said progress will require law enforcement reforms, including “the integration of urban police forces, appropriate adoption of body cameras, municipal court reform, and increased manpower and training for law enforcement.”
Jason Kander, Blunt’s Democratic Senate opponent, said he was “heartbroken” after the shootings.
“We have to ask ourselves why this is happening and what we can do to end this cycle,” he said.
But a week of shootings in three cities did not appear to move the nation any closer to changing gun laws.
House Republicans planned a vote on gun legislation earlier in the week but abandoned those plans Thursday when party members were unable to agree on the language.
In a speech on the House floor Friday, Speaker Paul Ryan said the shootings could “send us further into our corners” in the weeks ahead.
“There will be a temptation to let our anger harden our divisions,” Ryan said. “Let’s not let that happen.”
The Star’s news services contributed to this report.