Donald Trump Visits Las Vegas Following Deadly Mass Shooting
President Donald Trump landed in Las Vegas on Wednesday, three days after a gunman rained bullets onto a country music festival there in America’s worst mass shooting in modern history.
Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, was scheduled to make two stops: one at a hospital to meet with victims, their families and medical staff treating the wounded, and another to visit with first responders.
“We’re going to pay our respects, and to see the police, who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time,” he told reporters before leaving Washington Wednesday morning, calling it “a very, very sad day for me” and the shooting “a very sad thing.”
At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 others were wounded when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd estimated at 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest festival. Paddock’s fusillade, firing hundreds of rounds a minute from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel late Sunday, sent the concert into chaos. He was found dead by authorities in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound alongside 23 weapons, 12 of which were outfitted with a legal device to make them fire faster.
Shortly after the attack, Trump called it “an act of pure evil” and offered his condolences to victims. “We cannot fathom their pain; we cannot imagine their loss,” he said Monday morning, before praising law enforcement and first responders.
“The speed with which they acted is miraculous and prevented further loss of life,” Trump said. “To have found the shooter so quickly after the first shots were fired is something for which we will always be thankful and grateful. It shows what true professionalism is all about.”
Trump’s visit to Las Vegas marks the second time in two days he has had to assume the role of “consoler-in-chief.”
On Tuesday, he visited Puerto Rico to survey damage from Hurricane Maria. But he largely focused on congratulating federal and local officials for their response to the storm, rather than demonstrating empathy for the residents experiencing widespread devastation.
Trump is expected to refrain from discussing gun policy during his appearances on Wednesday.
“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” Trump said Tuesday, stressing that he wants to focus on the police response, which he repeatedly called “a miracle.”
White House officials have said that it’s not the appropriate time to raise the issue, despite the regularity of gun massacres in the United States.
On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that it was “premature to discuss policy when we don’t know all of the facts.” On multiple occasions, Trump has immediately weighed in on terrorist attacks committed by Muslims and used them to promote his travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries.
An administration official told Politico on Tuesday that “with this investigation still in its early phases, we should avoid making sweeping policy decisions.”
The president is likely to face pressure on the gun issue from Democrats in Congress, who have renewed calls for gun control. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Monday spearheaded the push, urging his colleagues to “get off [their] ass and do something.” Murphy’s constituents include those in Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 children during the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“President Trump, before he ran for office, was for certain sane, rational, limited aspects of gun control,” Schumer said on the chamber floor on Tuesday. “Maybe he can have a bit of a reawakening because of the horror of what happened as he goes to Las Vegas tomorrow.”
On Twitter, Schumer urged Trump to “stand up to the NRA and stand up for the over 30,000 Americans who are victims of gun violence” annually.
GOP legislation to ease restrictions on gun silencers appears to have been tabled after the shooting. Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), said they would work on ways to ban “bump stocks” that allow guns to fire faster ― the same device found on multiple weapons in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room.
“Doing nothing in the wake of this tragedy is not an option,” Feinstein said Tuesday.