Trump calls Las Vegas shooting an ‘act of pure evil’
President Trump on Monday condemned the mass shooting in Las Vegas as an “act of pure evil” and announced he would visit the grief-stricken city.
“We join together in sadness, shock and grief,” Trump said at the White House. “It was an act of pure evil.”
Trump said he would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with first responders and victims’ families. The somber president later told reporters he would spend a “full day” there and called it a “very, very sad day for everybody.”
The president spoke just hours after the shooting at a country music festival left at least 59 people dead and more than 520 injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Trump thanked first responders and police for reacting so quickly, crediting them with saving many lives. He also offered words of comfort to families of victims, telling them, “we are here for you and we are praying for you.”
The president ordered flags to fly at half-staff at all federal buildings and military installations until sunset Friday. He said the country must remain unified in the face of such shocking violence.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence and though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today and always will forever,” Trump said.
In measured remarks, Trump did not speak about the suspect or a possible motive for the shooting.
He said the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working closely with local authorities to assist with the investigation and that those agencies will provide updates.
The president spoke by phone Monday with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The Sunday night shooting sent Trump scrambling to respond. The White House added the remarks to his schedule Monday morning and scrapped his appearance at a planned event on regulation.
First lady Melania Trump was expected to join him later Monday on the South Lawn for a moment of silence.
The president was briefed earlier in the day by aides.
Trump first responded on Twitter early Monday, offering his “warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting.”
The alleged gunman, Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, which is next to the concert site. The 64-year-old Paddock was found dead in a hotel room, police said.
Authorities have not yet announced a motive.
An FBI official said there is “no connection to an international terrorist group” and DHS said there is no “specific credible threat involving other public venues in the country.”
Like his predecessors, Trump has been forced to respond to several mass shootings since becoming president in January.
He offered a similar, measured reaction to a shooting this summer at a congressional baseball practice that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others wounded.
Trump has been criticized for his response to other violent incidents, both at home and abroad.
He found himself in dire political straits in August after he said there was fault “on many sides” after confrontation between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
British leaders rebuked the president in June for criticizing the mayor of London, who is Muslim, in the aftermath of terror attacks that left seven people dead.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Trump tweeted at the time. The president had taken the mayor’s comments out of context; he was asking Londoners not be alarmed at an enhanced police presence.
Trump on Monday made no mention of new gun control laws, another break with former President Barack Obama, who used mass shootings to call for tougher restrictions on firearms.
There is little indication that Trump, who has repeatedly voiced support for gun-rights groups, would back such a push.
“The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” he told the National Rifle Association in April. “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
Democratic lawmakers nonetheless ramped up their demands for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting. They were joined by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was seriously wounded during a 2011 shooting at a constituent event in her home state.
Giffords said she is praying for lawmakers to “find the courage it will take to make progress on the challenging issue of gun violence.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who represents families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, called on Congress to “get off its ass and do something” about gun violence.
Scalise, who like Giffords suffered life-threatening wounds from a gunman, offered a different response than the former Arizona lawmaker: he encouraged Americans to give blood to assist live-saving efforts.
“In the face of unspeakable evil, our whole nation must respond with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity,” Scalise said in a statement.
– Jonathan Easley and Ben Kamisar contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:06 p.m.
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