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Trump decries act of ‘pure evil,’ will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday

Updated October 2, 2017 - 2:47 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with law enforcement, first responders and families of victims of America’s deadliest ever mass shooting — an act he described as “pure evil.”

In a somber mood, Trump addressed the nation Monday and sought to bring the nation together. “My fellow Americans,” he said, “We are joined together today in sadness, shock and grief.”

“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil,” he later added. “Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today — and always will forever.”

Trump, who ordered American flags to be flown at half staff, also praised law enforcement for finding the shooter “so quickly after the first shots were fired,” saying that saved lives.

Before noon Monday, Trump spoke on the phone with Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

While Lombardo told reporters the shooter appeared to be a lone wolf, Trump said that the FBI and Homeland Security would work with local law enforcement.

The president did not mention U.S. gun violence in his remarks, but gun control advocates were not silent.

Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was severely wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt that left six others dead, called a press conference to challenge Washington to pass stricter gun regulations. “This must stop,” she said in a statement. “We must stop it.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., recalled the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. “To my colleagues,” he tweeted, “your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends unless we do something to stop it.”

Trump has portrayed himself as a strong supporter of gun owners. At an April session of the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum, Trump said to applause, “The eight year-assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

In March he signed an executive order that rolled back a rule established under President Barack Obama that made it harder for people with documented mental health problems to buy guns. There was no indication that the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting, Stephen Paddock, had experienced any documented mental health issues, but Trump’s support for gun rights is likely to be an issue as Nevada absorbs the horror of the crime.

“Everyone at the Gun Owners of America was extremely troubled and saddened to see the tragic and terrifying report of the shooting in Las Vegas,” the group’s Executive Director Erich Pratt said. Pratt added, “It is disturbing to see anti-gun politicians and celebrities politicizing the tragedy by calling for further restrictions on guns.”

At Monday’s press briefing White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders chided reporters who asked if Trump might change his views and come to support tougher gun laws. “It would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all of the facts or what took place last night,” Sanders responded.

Nevada’s congressional delegation also reacted to the massacre in statements that sidestepped gun politics.

“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.” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

“Senseless, horrifying act of violence in Las Vegas tonight. Praying for all the victims & those impacted by the tragedy.” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., tweeted.

“Unfathomable evil,” Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., tweeted. “Attacking harmless people who like listening to music – I don’t have the words. Our hearts go out to the victims and families of this terrible tragedy. It’s a sad day.”

“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,” Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said in a statement. “We are a resilient and benevolent town that will not be intimidated by acts of violence.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., who was in Las Vegas and attended a news briefing with Lombardo and other law enforcement officials, decried the “despicable act of violence” in a statement. At the briefing he thanked first-responders who worked through the night “working tirelessly to save lives” and said the tragedy had demonstrated the community’s resilience.

Rep. Jackie Rosen, D-Nev., said in a statement she was “heartbroken over the evil, horrific act of violence that has shaken Las Vegas and taken scores of innocent lives and injured hundreds more.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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