Trump condemns mass shooting as ‘act of pure evil’ and will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday
US President Donald Trump condemned the largest mass shooting in US history as “an act of pure evil” adding the nation was “joined together in sadness, shock and grief.”
Trump addressed the nation from the White House after a gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more when he opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas late Sunday.
“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 was an act of pure evil,” he said.
Trump declared that the nation would rally together in the face of the latest act of senseless violence.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” the president said. “It is our love that defines us today.”
Trump praised the first responders who he said prevented further losses of life and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. He offered condolences to the families of those killed, saying, “We cannot fathom their pain. We cannot imagine their loss.”
“We are praying for you,” he said. “We are here for you.”
In a tweet on Monday, Trump offered “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was “briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas”.
Sanders said “we are monitoring the situation closely and offer our full support to state and local officials. All of those affected are in our thoughts and prayers”.
The gunman’s attack on the Sunday night country music concert killed at least 50 people and sent more than 400 to hospital, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
The US Homeland Security Department says there is no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues. Police have not yet determined a motive in the shootings.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting, without providing any evidence.
“The Las Vegas attack was carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried it out in response to calls to target states of the coalition,” the group’s news agency Amaq said, referring to the US-led coalition fighting the group in the Middle East.
“The Las Vegas attacker converted to Islam a few months ago,” Amaq added.
Since Trump’s inauguration, there have been other mass shootings, including one in Texas last month, when a gunman killed eight and was fatally shot by police. But the Las Vegas attack is the deadliest on Trump’s watch.
The president offered a measured, sombre response in June, after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice that wounded five, including seriously injuring Representative Steve Scalise. But he has drawn criticism for more inflammatory reactions to other acts of violence.
After a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead in 2016, he tweeted “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”
In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London in June, Trump targeted the city’s mayor on Twitter, suggesting he wasn’t taking the attacks seriously enough.
Trump will be tasked with uniting a nation which is already angrily rehashing stridently held views on the vexed question of gun control.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 six and seven-year old children and six adults were mowed down by a disturbed 20-year-old, Trump appeared to favour stricter rules.
Back then, president Barack Obama called for the deadlock to be broken and for Congress to act.
At that time Trump tweeted: “President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut.”
US Senator Chris Murphy, who was the congressman for Sandy Hook, echoed that call in the wake of the Las Vegas attack.
“Nowhere but America do horrific large-scale mass shootings happen with this degree of regularity,” he said.
“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic.”
Pope Francis called the mass shooting a “senseless tragedy”.
“He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died,” it added.
In England, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was horrified by the attack at a music event and said the country stood ready to help however it could.
“I am horrified by the awful attack at a music festival in Las Vegas this morning,” he said in a statement. “The United Kingdom stands with the American people against this indiscriminate violence. My thoughts are with all those caught up in it ... The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is in contact with Las Vegas authorities to establish whether any British people were caught up in the attack and we are ready to help however we can.”
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters