Last night, a gunman opened fire at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing more than 50 people and potentially injuring over 400 people. The shooting took place in a crowd of roughly 22,000 and has been named the deadliest in American history. In a press conference early this morning, Las Vegas Metro Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo confirmed that the suspect in the shooting was 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, a white male.
This morning, President Trump spoke about the shooting from the White House. “It was an act of pure evil,” he said. He thanked the local police, and noted that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are assisting the investigation. His comments were notably restrained, compared with the fiery persona often shown on social media. “We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss,” he said. “To the families of the victims, we are praying for you.”
Most notably, he didn’t talk about guns, past single mentions of “the shooter” and “a gunman.” One imagines that had 50 people been killed by any other means—be it stabbing or chemical attack—it would have been specified. (After the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, President Obama delivered similar remarks, noting that the killer had been armed with handgun and assault rifle, and that it had been the deadliest American shooting to date.) But the Republican party has come to power by latching its electoral fortunes to the Second Amendment debate, and the National Rifle Association has spent millions of dollars to ensure the gun control debate is off the table.
In this context, and after reports showed the devastating numbers of people dead and injured, Trump’s words lacked pointed blame or concern. At one point he tried to offer some spiritual wisdom—”Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in theory. We seek comfort in those words, for we know God lives in the hearts of those who breathe.” (The remarks were hollow given that we all know Trump is not a paragon of religious fortitude.) He also offered this sentiment: “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil; our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today, and always will, forever.”
Here are some relevant things about gun control we will share in addition: Nevada does not prohibit the possession or display of assault weapons. Open carry is legal without a permit. Last year, Nevada passed legislation meant to strengthen background checks, which was immediately ruled unenforceable. The NRA spent millions of dollars to elect Trump. The stocks of gun-makers immediately went up after the shooting, because people who purchase large quantities of guns are paranoid and selfish.
This is the country we live in, and the president refusing to acknowledge the weapon that played a part in this event is extremely frustrating. That we might have predicted his response makes it no less depressing.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story failed to acknowledge Trump’s references to “the shooter” and “the gunman.”