WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday called for the nation “to find unity and peace,” in the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, declaring, “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil; our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”
Speaking somberly from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Trump condemned the shooting as an “act of pure evil.” He said he would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with families of the victims, law enforcement officials and others who responded to the fusillade of gunfire that rained down on a country music festival Sunday night.
The president said nothing about the gunman or the circumstances of the attack. He instead saluted the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, expressed condolences to the victims and offered prayers for the recovery of the hundreds wounded.
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“We pray for the day when evil is banished, and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear,” Trump said, speaking from a teleprompter.
Acknowledging the senselessness of the act, the president said the nation was understandably groping for meaning. But he urged people not to give in to despair.
“Even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope,” the president said.
It was a rigorously muted performance from a president who, as a political candidate, sometimes seized on mass shootings to warn of the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism” and to justify banning people from predominantly Muslim countries.
After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, Trump first proposed his travel ban — a hard-line stance that set him apart from a crowded Republican field during the primaries and proved popular with party voters.
The following June, after an attack on a gay club in Orlando, Florida, by the son of an Afghan immigrant, Trump, by then the presumptive nominee, said it was further evidence of the need for a travel ban. He attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for what he claimed was her desire to “dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East.”
But Sunday’s shooting was fundamentally different from those in Orlando and San Bernardino: Federal officials said there was no sign of a connection between the attack and foreign terrorist organizations.
What the three killings share are perpetrators who got their hands on an arsenal of high-powered weaponry and ammunition. Trump has the political support of the National Rifle Association and has steadfastly championed gun rights. However, in his morning statement, the president steered clear of the political issues surrounding gun violence, sticking to a message of unity.
“In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has,” Trump 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.”
Earlier Monday morning, Trump offered his “warmest condolences” in a Twitter post:
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