EL PASO (Texas) • US President Donald Trump met victims and first responders from last weekend's deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio on Wednesday, and chanting protesters accused him of inflaming tensions with anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric.
In El Paso, on the border with Mexico, Mr Trump visited the University Medical Centre where wounded victims were treated after a man who had posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online killed 22 people at a Walmart store last Saturday.
Hundreds of protesters, some holding signs reading "Trump is racist," "Love over hate" and "Send him back!" gathered under a broiling sun at a nearby park to condemn the President and his presence in El Paso.
In a visit earlier in the day to Dayton, Ohio, that was mostly out of public view, Mr Trump met shooting victims at Miami Valley Hospital, where the wounded were treated after nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early last Sunday. It was the second of two mass shootings 13 hours apart that shocked the country.
Crowds of protesters outside the hospital and in downtown Dayton chanted "Do something!" and held signs reading, "Hate not welcome here," and "Stop this terror."
White House spokesman Stephanie Grisham said the President and First Lady Melania Trump met several victims in their hospital rooms and others who had been discharged in Ohio, and thanked the medical staff for their work. "It was a warm and wonderful visit," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. "Tremendous enthusiasm & even love."
The back-to-back massacres have reopened the national debate over gun safety.
As he left the White House, Mr Trump said that he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and ensure mentally ill people did not carry guns.
He predicted congressional support for those two measures, but not for banning assault rifles.
In Dayton, Mr Trump was greeted at the airport by a bipartisan group of state and local officials, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
They urged Mr Trump to call on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back from its summer recess to work on a House-passed Bill that expands background checks on gun buyers.
Mayor Whaley said she agreed with Mr Trump's decision not to visit the district where the shooting occurred, given the high emotions in the community.
"A lot of people (who) own businesses in that district are not interested in the President being there," she said. "A lot of the time, his talk can be very divisive and that's the last thing we need in Dayton."
Democrats said Mr Trump's anti-immigrant, racially charged language has fanned racist, white nationalist sentiments, creating a political climate more conducive to hate-based violence.
The massacre in the predominantly Hispanic city of El Paso is being investigated as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism, the authorities said, citing a racist manifesto posted online shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said the Dayton shooter had explored violent ideologies.
An open letter to Mr Trump on Wednesday in the El Paso Times described the border city as having "a deep tradition of racial harmony", whose people came together after the tragedy. It admonished Mr Trump for calling El Paso one of the country's most dangerous cities in his State of the Union address.
On Monday, Mr Trump gave a speech focusing on mental health reforms, tighter Internet regulation and wider use of the death penalty.