President Donald Trump on Monday called the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 “an act of pure evil,” as he delivered somber and largely apolitical remarks about the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“My fellow Americans, we are joined together today in sadness, shock, and grief,” the president said in televised remarks from the White House’s diplomatic room. “Last night a gunman opened fire on a large crowd at a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. He brutally murdered more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more. It was an act of pure evil.”
Trump announced that he will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, where he will meet with first responders, law enforcement officials and families of victims. The president praised the “miraculous” work of authorities and pledged that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would work closely with the local investigation into the shooting.
Trump also issued a proclamation ordering U.S. flags be flown at half-staff for the remainder of the week, matching an order from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who ordered that flags at the Capitol be flown at half-staff as well.
Law enforcement officials in Las Vegas said the gunman, a white man identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, opened fire late Sunday night from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on a music festival where country star Jason Aldean was performing. Roughly 22,000 people were at the concert.
Paddock’s motivation was not immediately clear. An FBI special agent speaking at a press conference in Las Vegas said mid-day Monday that the bureau had “determined no connection with an international terrorist group.” Nonetheless, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson characterized the shooter as a “a classic WMD. This is a weapon, and a man, of mass destruction.”
David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke had been briefed on the Las Vegas shooting and that “at this time, we have no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving other public venues in the country.”
Paddock, a local resident, was believed to have acted alone and was found dead inside his hotel room, enforcement authorities said. Ten or more rifles also were found inside the gunman’s hotel room, according to officials.
Eric Paddock, the gunman’s brother, told reporters outside his Orlando home that he was “dumbfounded” by the attack, and said he didn’t know where his brother got his weapons.
“Not an avid gun guy at all. The fact that he had those kind of weapons is just — where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background or anything like that,” he said.
Authorities cautioned that the death toll from the shooting could still rise. It is the first mass shooting of this scale that Trump has faced as president, and will likely test his ability to soothe the country in a moment of national tragedy, especially as he prepares to head to Puerto Rico on Tuesday after having sparked a feud with the San Juan mayor over hurricane relief efforts.
In his remarks on Monday morning, Trump struck a unifying tone.
“To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we are here for you. And we ask God to help see you through this very dark period,” Trump said. “Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.”
Trump’s speech lasted just under five minutes and were his first comments on the shooting other than a post to Twitter Monday morning in which he expressed his “warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
The shooting is already spurring renewed calls from Democrats for gun control, a political challenge for Trump, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and Republicans who control both chambers of Congress.
On Monday morning, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, two of the most outspoken lawmakers on the issue in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, issued statements calling on Congress to take a tougher gun control stance.
Other members of the White House immediately offered their sympathies on Monday morning.
“To victims, families & loved ones affected by this senseless violence in Las Vegas, Karen & I are praying for you & offering our love,” Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and one of his top advisers, and first lady Melania Trump also expressed condolences over the shooting.
Former President Barack Obama, who spoke during his White House tenure at memorial services for mass shootings in Dallas, Charleston, South Carolina and Newtown, Connecticut, wrote on Twitter that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, “are praying for the victims in Las Vegas. Our thoughts are with their families & everyone enduring another senseless tragedy.”
Former President Bill Clinton tweeted that Sunday’s shooting “should be unimaginable in America,” while his wife, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, was more political in her statement, writing that “our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”
The Las Vegas Strip shooting was “particularly despicable,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement issued Monday morning, because it was “carried out during a concert, transforming an evening of music and celebration into a heartbreaking and horrific night of violence.”
Blumenthal, in his statement, noted that it had been just over a year since a gunman killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, the shooting that previously was the deadliest in modern U.S. history. He said that Congress’s inaction had left him “more than frustrated, I am furious.”
Murphy used even stronger words. “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” he said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said online that he was “in our thoughts this morning after the horrific news” and shared a phone number for those trying to locate missing family members and friends in the wake of the shooting.
Nevada politicians responded to the shooting online as well. “A tragic & heinous act of violence has shaken the #Nevada family. Our prayers are w/ the victims & all affected by this act of cowardice,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval wrote online just before 2:30 a.m. PDT Monday morning.
“We have to rely on our faith in a time like this to get us through all of it. You know, I couldn’t be prouder of the way Nevadans have responded to this and what they’ve done,” Sandoval, a Republican, said at a later news conference, lauding the efforts of medical professionals who had worked overnight to save the lives of those who were injured in the shooting. “There is a lot to learn from all of this. It was a cowardly, despicable act that I’m very angry about. There’s not much we can do, but we can learn.”
Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s Republican attorney general, had been scheduled to announce his candidacy for governor at a kickoff event Monday but instead announced that he would postpone campaign events through next Monday.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) wrote online that he was “thankful for police and first-responders on the scene.”
“Senseless, horrifying act of violence in Las Vegas tonight. Praying for all the victims & those impacted by the tragedy,” Heller wrote on Twitter. “Spoke with Gov. Sandoval and Attorney General Laxalt and will continue to monitor the situation.”
Heller’s colleague, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), said she was “praying for all those affected by this senseless tragedy. Thank you to all the first responders. I will continue to monitor the situation.” She also retweeted a post from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department directing locals interested in donating blood to a location where they could do so.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded in last night’s vicious and senseless attack outside the Mandalay Bay Resort. I thank the first responders for taking down the gunman and working tirelessly to treat the wounded,” Cortez Masto said in a statement released Monday morning. “I am working with the City of Las Vegas and Clark County to ensure that local officials have the resources they need to support our community and investigate these tragic events.”
“I’m monitoring the situation on Las Vegas Blvd. Follow @LVMPD for updates. My thoughts and prayers are with all impacted,” Rep. Dina Titus (R-Nev.), whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, wrote on Twitter.
“My heart aches for the victims, their loved ones, and our community. I am grateful for law enforcement’s swift response and the many good Samaritans whose selfless acts of bravery showcased Las Vegas’ values to the world,” the congresswoman said in a statement, which she also published on Twitter. “We are a resilient and benevolent town that will not be intimidated by acts of violence. During this difficult time, my office will be working closely with local, state, and federal partners to provide support for Southern Nevada as we heal and move forward.”
Rep. Reuben Kihuen (D-Nev.), whose district spans much of the central portion of Nevada but has its population center located in Clark County, urged Nevadans to comply with instructions from law enforcement as the investigation into “this despicable act of violence” continues to unfold.
“I am grieving and praying for the victims of this horrible shooting and their families,” the congressman said in a statement. “This cowardly attack on innocent people will not define who we are as a city, a state, or a country.”