Trump sticks to somber script, refuses to join guns debate


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump stuck to a somber script Monday after at least 58 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.”

Trump, who owns a hotel in Las Vegas, told associates that he feels deep ties to the city. He said in public that his visit would be “a very, very sad moment for me … for everybody no matter where you are, no matter what your thought process.”

The president was informed of the shooting early Monday by chief of staff John Kelly, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He received periodic briefings from Kelly and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert while also monitoring the coverage on cable news. On Twitter, he avoided the kind of inflammatory statements he has issued after some previous tragedies, such as last year’s Orlando nightclub shooting, instead offering “warmest condolences” to victims and their families.

“There’s a difference between being a candidate and being the president,” Sanders said when asked to explain…



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