DAYTON, Ohio — On Sunday, Americans woke up to news of a sickening shooting rampage in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, where a man wearing body armor shot and killed nine people, including his own sister. Hours earlier, the first gun massacre to capture the nation’s attention this August weekend had unfolded in El Paso, when a 21-year-old with a rifle entered a Walmart and killed 20 people.
In a country that has become nearly numb to men with guns opening fire in schools, at concerts and in churches, the back-to-back bursts of gun violence in less than 24 hours were enough to leave the public stunned and shaken. The shootings ground the 2020 presidential campaign to a halt, reignited a debate on gun control and called into question the increasingly angry words directed at immigrants on the southern border in recent weeks by right-wing pundits and President Trump.
“When you are talking about the shooting yesterday and they have to ask ‘which one?” wrote Michael Blanco, 22, a fishery technician in Oswego, N.Y, on Twitter on Sunday, adding the hashtag #ThisisAmerica.
[For the latest updates, read our live briefings on the Dayton shooting and the El Paso attack.]
The shootings prompted Republicans, including Mr. Trump, to condemn the gunmen’s actions and offer support to the people of Dayton and El Paso. Democrats urged Congress to take action and pass stricter gun laws. “We have a responsibility to the people we serve to act,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Residents of El Paso were on edge, grimly aware of a manifesto posted online that the authorities said was written by the suspect, Patrick Crusius, 21, who was in police custody. The manifesto spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” described an imminent attack and railed against immigrants.
[The manifesto was posted on 8chan. “Shut the site down,” the platform’s creator says.]
In Bellbrook, a quiet suburb of Dayton, Ohio, that residents described as a “utopia,” the typical Sunday morning peace was disrupted by the police and news media who swarmed the cul-de-sacs and sidewalks of the neighborhood, where Connor Betts, the 24-year-old suspect, is believed to have lived.
Brad Howard, 25, who had known Mr. Betts since before kindergarten and rode the bus with him to school for years, opened his phone and saw the news of his classmate on Sunday morning. “It was just another one of those things,” he said. “Just a kick in the teeth.”
“Just like everybody else in the world you don’t expect it to be a few blocks from your place,” said Brian Harris, who was standing up the street with his wife Diane, the owners of a machine shop.
Mr. Betts died during the shooting and his motive appeared unclear. But the attack on shoppers in El Paso is being viewed as a domestic terror attack, federal authorities said on Sunday.
John F. Bash, the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas, said that the shooting seemed to meet the statutory definition of domestic terrorism, in that “it appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least.”
“And we’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice,” he added.
Across the country, Americans tried to process the weekend of violence while going about their usual routines. On Sunday morning at the National Cathedral in Washington, the Rev. Dr. Leonard Hamlin Sr. spoke to Americans struggling to grasp the violence and loss of life, on top of what can feel like a long list of national and personal struggles.
“Our real challenge is to look within,” he said. “If you are honest this morning, all of us need to be transformed at little bit more.”
Hundreds of people milled about a farmer’s market in Kansas City’s River Market district on Sunday afternoon, shopping for items ranging from beaded crafts to vegetables like squash and peppers. Several people said that while the mass shootings certainly got their attention, they were not going to scare them out of going on with their lives.
“It’s outrageous,” said Terrion Foster, 50, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., and works in accounting. “It’s really sad because I feel like you can’t go anywhere and be safe. I’m 50 years old and I didn’t think I’d be alive to see some of the things that are going on today.”