President Donald Trump stuck to a sombre script Monday after at least 59 people were shot dead in Las Vegas, condemning the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history as an “act of pure evil” and declaring the nation would unite behind the survivors. He refused to get into a new debate over gun control.
Faced with the sad and familiar ritual of a president offering consolation after horrific violence, Trump spoke slowly and carefully from the White House Diplomatic Room, focusing not on the identity or possible motive of the shooter but on the nation’s efforts to heal.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” the president said. “We call upon the bonds that unite us: our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity.”
Trump spoke hours after a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Vegas Strip casino opened fire on people at an outdoor country music festival below. The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, killed at least 58 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives. More than 500 people were hurt.
In a measured statement that was revised by aides until moments before he spoke, Trump did not describe the gunman in any way or suggest what might have been behind his actions. He praised the first responders who he said prevented further loss 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.”