President Trump said Tuesday that the quick response of law enforcement during the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history was “in many ways, a miracle.”
“Look, we have a tragedy. What happened is, in many ways, a miracle,” Trump said as he departed the White House for a trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning. “The police department, they’ve done such an incredible job. And we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on. But I do have to say, how quickly the police department was able to get in was really very much of a miracle. They’ve done an amazing job.”
At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured in Las Vegas late Sunday when Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in the area, opened fire on an outdoor country music festival from the windows of a 32nd-floor hotel suite. For at least five minutes, and perhaps as long as 15, bullets rained down on the concertgoers and the panicked crowd rushed to escape. As Paddock fired round after round, gun smoke filled the hotel suite and set off a fire alarm, allowing a SWAT team to zero in on Paddock’s position in about 20 minutes. As officers closed in, Paddock killed himself.
Despite the historic number of people killed, Trump has repeatedly stressed that the shooting could have been even worse.
“I want to thank the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and all of the first responders for their courageous efforts, and for helping to save the lives of so many,” Trump said in the hours after the shooting on Monday. “The speed with which they acted is miraculous and prevented further loss of life. To have found the shooter so quickly after the first shots were fired is something for which we will always be thankful and grateful. It shows what true professionalism is all about.”
Although Trump appeared open on Tuesday to talk about gun-control laws in the future, his administration has declined to discuss the issue in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Monday. “There is currently an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation. A motive is yet to be determined. And it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all the facts, or what took place last night.”
Sanders said that when gun-control is eventually debated, the administration will “need to look at things that may actually have that real impact,” noting that Chicago has “the strictest gun laws in the country” yet still sees thousands of gun-related crimes committed each year. She also criticized Hillary Clinton and others who, in the wake of the shooting, have criticized legislation pushed by the National Rifle Association that would make it easier to purchase silencers.
“It’s very easy for Mrs. Clinton to criticize and to come out, but I think we need to remember, the only person with blood on their hands is that of the shooter,” Sanders said. “And this isn’t a time for us to go after individuals or organizations. I think that we can have those policy conversations, but today is not that day.”