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Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Discusses President Trump's Visit In Response To Mass Shooting


Today President Trump visited both of the cities that experienced mass shootings over the weekend - Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. There were conversations with elected officials and hospital visits. There were also people chanting and protesting in the streets. One of the people the president spoke with is the mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley, who I spoke with earlier today.

Thank you for taking the time today.

NAN WHALEY: Hey. Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Before the president arrived in Dayton, you said that you were planning to tell him that his comments around gun violence and mental health issues were unhelpful. Did you give him that message?

WHALEY: Yes. I really talked about what he could do and, you know, that the people of Dayton were hoping for some action. And, you know, I said to him that, you know, I thought he was a person of action so he could make some action on gun legislation. So that was...

SHAPIRO: How'd he respond to that?

WHALEY: He said he would do something. I didn't get the sense that he was like - had a plan of, like, yes, I'm for red flag laws. Yes, I'm for assault weapons or, yes, I'm for straw purchases, et cetera. But, you know, let's hope he's not one of these all-talk-no-action politicians. That's what we're hoping.

SHAPIRO: Ahead of his visit, you were skeptical that he would be able to bring anything positive, to be frank. Now that he has come and gone, what's your sense of what his visit did, what the impact was?

WHALEY: I think the victims that were in the hospital were super grateful for his visit and our first responders. You know, he is the president of the United States. They were happy to see him. But it was tough in the city. You know, we had some skirmishes in the Oregon District of pro-Trump, anti-Trump. I mean - and, really, the minute he announced that he was coming, we saw the rhetoric in the community just get really heightened. And before that, there was really a sense of people coming together.

SHAPIRO: Do you blame him for that?

WHALEY: I think that's something for the past three years that - you know, the hyperpartisan nature of who Donald Trump is just makes that happen. And, you know, as an elected official who likes to think of ways that we can build together - and we're seeing that in Ohio. You know, we saw Governor DeWine take action yesterday. We saw Congressman Turner call for an end to assault weapons, so we're seeing that in the state. So when he comes and it stretches it out to make it hyperpartisan, yes, I think some of his tweets and some of his zero-sum game politics isn't helpful for democracy.

SHAPIRO: Well, speaking of partisanship on Twitter, White House aide Dan Scavino accused you of mischaracterizing the visit. He called you and Senator Sherrod Brown disgraceful politicians, doing nothing but politicizing a mass shooting, while White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Twitter accused you of holding a dishonest press conference in the name of partisan politics. Do you want to respond?

WHALEY: Yeah. I mean, I don't really understand what they're talking about. And this is the same kind of, you know, hyperpartisanship that comes away. We said in the press conference that the victims were grateful to see him. We mentioned that in it. But, you know, we were very serious about wanting to have some real movement on gun legislation. And, you know, Senator Brown called on him to bring Mitch McConnell back. You know, we had a healthy conversation about the assault weapons ban. And, hey, maybe he could get this done. And we were very, you know, honest about that. And, you know, for him to be upset that we had a press conference while he did no press in Dayton - I think that's really what this is about. You know, I mean, I want him to take action. And, you know, I've been very clear about that. I was clear to him and clear to the press today.

SHAPIRO: You and the people of Dayton have been at the center of intense tragedy and scrutiny for the last few days now. Where do things go from here? What happens to your city now?

WHALEY: Well, I think we want to get on with the business of grieving and bringing our community together. Certainly, we are heartened by Governor DeWine's action around some common-sense gun legislation in the statehouse. We'll advocate heavy for that. We still hope that President Trump will, you know, take action on some common-sense gun legislation, and we'll continue to push for that. But in the community, it's about the grieving process and bringing our community together. And that's my job as mayor that we'll continue to keep on doing.

SHAPIRO: Nan Whaley is mayor of Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people. Mayor Whaley, thank you for speaking with us and my condolences for what your city has been going through.

WHALEY: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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