Protests have greeted Donald Trump’s appearance in Ohio and Texas where he visited survivors of last weekend’s mass shootings and saluted members of the emergency services.
The president and first lady Melania Trump began their visit at the hospital where many of the victims of Sunday’s attack in Dayton were treated.
Outside Miami Valley Hospital, at least 200 protesters gathered, hoping to send a message to the president that they want action on gun control. Some said he was not welcome in their city.
It was a highly unusual display of anger and hostility at a time of national tragedy, driven by critics who say Mr Trump’s own words may have contributed to last weekend’s shootings in Ohio and El Paso, Texas.
The mayors of both cities have called for the president to change the way he talks about immigrants.
During the flight from Dayton to El Paso, Mr Trump tweeted photos of himself visiting wounded patients
He posed for photos with medical staff and spoke with law enforcement officials, giving a “thumbs up” in one.
He tweeted: “The people I met in Dayton are the finest anywhere!”
Multiple protests are planned, and Democratic presidential candidates continued to criticise him, including Beto O’Rourke, who will address a counter-rally in his home town of El Paso during the president’s visit.
Former vice president Joe Biden said Mr Trump is “fuelling a literal carnage” in America with his incendiary rhetoric and racist attacks.
Speaking in Iowa, the Democratic presidential front-runner said Mr Trump is incapable of offering the moral leadership that has defined the presidency over the course of history.
He said voters “cannot let this man be re-elected president of the United States of America”.
As he left the White House, Mr Trump defended his rhetoric while strongly criticising those who say he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions, returning to political arguing even as he called for unity.
“My critics are political people,” Mr Trump said, noting the apparent political leanings of the gunman in the Dayton killings and suggesting the man was supportive of Democrats.
“Had nothing to do with President Trump,” he said. “So these are people that are looking for political gain.”
He also denied his rhetoric had anything to do with the violence, claiming instead that he “brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well”.
Mr Trump travelled first to Ohio, before heading to Texas.
White House officials have said the visits will be similar to those he has paid to grieving communities in the past, with the Republican president and the first lady saluting first responders and spending time with mourning families and survivors.
“We’ll be meeting with first responders, law enforcement and some of the victims and paying my respects and regards,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday morning.
“It’s a terrific opportunity, really, to congratulate some of the police and law enforcement. The job they’ve done was incredible. Really incredible.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Mr Trump also wants “to have a conversation” about ways to head off future deadly episodes.
“We can do something impactful to prevent this from ever happening again, if we come together,” the spokesman said.
Mr Trump insisted that Congress was making progress on possible new gun legislation. He said he has had “plenty of talks” with legislators in recent days and there is “a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks”.