President Donald Trump called the worst shooting in U.S. history “an act of pure evil” in remarks to the nation Monday morning, but said “the answers do not come easy.”
The mass shooting at a Jason Aldean concert, which killed at least 58 and injured at least 500, is the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. Law enforcement say 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock killed himself as officers closed in on him.
“In moments of horror, America comes together as one. It always has,” Trump said, adding, “Though we feel such great anger ... it is our love that defines us today, and always will, forever.”
He called on the nation to pray for the victims.
“We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss,” he said.
Trump said he would be in Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with families and survivors.
The White House orderered flags to be flown at half staff until sunset on October 6.
Trump had tweeted his sympathy for the victims earlier that morning:
It’s the first shooting on such a large scale to occur during Trump’s presidency. But the Pulse nightclub shooting, which killed 49 people and was formerly the most deadly shooting in U.S. history, occurred while Trump was president-elect. His response to that tragedy was widely criticized, by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Trump was also criticized for his response to the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. A man drove his car into a crowd of people who were protesting a white supremacist rally being held in the area. One woman was killed in the attack and 19 were injured.
After days of mostly silence on the attack, as many called on Trump to condemn white supremacy, Trump eventually gave a statement that sparked outrage.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”
Following a shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia in June, Trump repeatedly voiced support for the injured victims, which included Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. Trump repeatedly tweeted support for Scalise and praised the heroics of law enforcement officers in a full statement.
There have been mass casualties and terror attacks in foreign countries since Trump has been president, and his responses to those tragedies have inspired mixed reactions. He was largely supportive of Spain after a terrorist attack in August left 13 dead and 80 injured in Barcelona.