In the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, President Donald Trump visited Las Vegas to praise first responders while tip-toeing around the issue of gun control.
Trump's trip to the site of Sunday night’s massacre at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino was the first time he has had to deal directly with the aftermath of a major shooting rampage of the type that have killed hundreds of people in recent years in the United States.
The president hailed the bravery of survivors who put their lives on the line helping other victims as bullets rained down from a nearby hotel.
Trump made his comments after visiting patients and speaking with doctors at University Medical Center in Las Vegas in the aftermath of the attack, which killed 58 people and injured more than 500.
Some of the patients the president and first lady Melania Trump met with "were very, very badly wounded," Trump said, "and they were badly wounded because they refused to leave. They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over."
As has been the case with previous incidents, the shooting has reignited the contentious issue of gun control in the United States. Since Sunday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have faced questions about possible new measures curbing gun ownership. Trump's fellow Republicans, who control Congress, have shown little inclination to respond to Democratic calls for gun measures.
Trump was asked on Tuesday whether it was time to debate gun control measures. He responded, "Perhaps that will come. But that's not for now." True to his word, he deflected a question about whether the United States has a problem with gun violence during his visit.
"We're not going to talk about that today," he said.
While on the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump appealed to gun rights advocates such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a figure who would unequivocally support their demands. The pledge earned Trump a US$30 million campaign contribution from the influential group.
In April, he told the NRA that it now enjoys “a true friend and champion in the White House.” In February, Trump blocked a law passed by former President Obama that would have prevented 75,000 people with mental illness from buying guns.
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white male retiree and former employee of military contractor Lockheed Martin, was identified as the gunman in the attack. Paddock rained fire down on an open-air country music festival from the window of his suite in the high-rise hotel.
Records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal reveal that Paddock was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam tablets in June. Known by its brand name, Valium, the sedative hypnotic drug can trigger aggressive behavior. Abuse of the substance has also been known to lead to psychotic episodes.
Trump's motorcade passed the Mandalay Bay hotel during the drive to the hospital.
Paddock killed himself as police closed in. At the hospital, Trump said investigators were still searching for Paddock's motivation for the attack.
"We're looking very, very hard," he said after calling Paddock "a very demented person."
In July, psychotherapist Harriet Fraad has called mass murders such as that committed by Paddock “a uniquely frequent American specialty.” Fraad has argued that the mass killings are a product of an interaction of several U.S. social factors.
“The blind rage of mass killings is a wake-up call,” Fraad wrote in a 2013 piece published by Truthout. “We have to look at the interaction of all the conditions of existence that combine to generate America's mass killings.”
“At present, the U.S. is home to a vast group of predominantly white, dispossessed, enraged men. We have a political system that permits vast money at the top to hijack our politics … Our airwaves are sold to the highest bidder,” she continued.
“We have powerful lobbies that sell U.S. militarism and gun ownership as refuges for dispossessed men. We have profit churning mass media with films, videos, and advertisements pushing violence as a solution to problems from intimate life to international relations. We have a dysfunctional public mental health care system,” she added. Fraad concluded that U.S. politics and society itself prevents these issues from being addressed in any meaningful way.
Following the Las Vegas attack, Trump ordered flags lowered to half-staff. He has called the massacre "an act of pure evil."