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Virtual IACM 2021

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Mass Shootings and presidential Rhetoric

Mass shootings in America increased significantly under the Obama and Trump administrations. Whether the pattern reflects deep, legitimate social conflict requiring serious effort to dissipate and resolve through programs and legislation, or actions by deranged individuals confronting their personal fragility where criminal punishment or psychological help seems most appropriate, is not always easy to discern. Some violent acts were motivated by Islamic jihadi ideology, others by right-wing white supremacism and antisemitic thinking. Obama fashioned himself as a reconciliation problem-solver in approaching policy issues in the spirit of unity and cooperation; Trump practiced an aggressive form of confrontation to achieve dominance in what he considered the right pathway. Neither leader seemed in control of the violence that appeared. This research examines and compares the presidential responses of the Obama and Trump administrations to the notable mass violence events occurring during their regimes through their public statements and the policy impact of their rhetoric.

Karen Feste
University of Denver
United States


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