DAYTON, Ohio -- Less than a week after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed 31 people and reignited calls for gun law reforms, President Donald Trump on Wednesday met with patients and thanked medical staff at a Dayton hospital in what a spokeswoman for the president called powerful moments.
Trump then headed to El Paso to offer condolences to victims and thank first responders and medical personnel.
His arrival with first lady Melania Trump in Dayton was greeted by signs of the deep divisions over his response to the killings that left nine dead in Dayton, 22 dead in El Paso and many injured.
In tweets hours before his arrival, Trump complained about media coverage of his reaction to the El Paso shooting, which authorities said was carried out by a white supremacist who targeted Latinos. Trump also tweeted criticism of Democratic presidential contender and Texan Beto O'Rourke, who had objected to Trump's response to the shootings.
The tweets further fueled tensions in the two cities, where many politicians, residents and victims had called on the president to cancel his plans.
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Wednesday morning, Trump said he wanted to congratulate police for their work. He rebuffed a question about whether his words contributed to white nationalism and anger against minorities, saying "my rhetoric brings people together" and also that he was "concerned about the rise of any group of hate."
"I don't like it," he said. "Whether it's white supremacy, whether it's any other kind of supremacy."
The president said he would "come up with something that's going to be really good" to combat gun violence. He said he supported stronger background checks on gun buyers but that there was no "political appetite" for an assault rifle ban. Assault-rifle-style weapons were used in both shootings.
In Dayton, where Trump stopped at Miami Valley Hospital, hundreds of protesters gathered outside with signs that said "No assault weapons," "Stand up to the NRA," "We can end gun violence" and "Do something." There were similar signs downtown Dayton near the site of the shooting, an area Trump did not visit.
There were also some "Trump 2020" signs downtown and outside the hospital, where several of the wounded were treated.