Trump faces leadership test in deadliest US mass shooting
(Bloomberg) US President Donald Trump faced a leadership test Monday after a killing spree in Las Vegas was called the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Trump offered his condolences after police said at least 50 people were killed and more than 200 were injured at a concert Sunday night by a lone gunman who later died and whose motive was unclear.
"My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting," Trump said on Twitter. "God bless you!"
The Department of Homeland Security had "no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving other public venues in the country" after the shooting, it said in a statement.
Trump was briefed on the attack and White House officials are closely monitoring the situation, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “All of those affected are in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.
The shooting could initiate a new round of debate over US gun laws.
Republican Senator Dean Heller, who represents Nevada in Washington, said on Twitter that he was praying for the victims of the "senseless, horrifying act of violence" and that he’d spoken to Republican Governor Brian Sandoval and would continue to monitor the situation.
Heller is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in next year’s midterm elections, and the shooting could increase pressure on him to back any Democratic effort to revive legislation that would impose stricter background checks on gun purchasers. He voted against a version of background-check legislation that came close to Senate passage in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Democratic officials began hinting Monday at their desire for tougher gun laws. "The nation’s conscience must be galvanized," Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting happened, said on Twitter.
"Not again," tweeted Connecticut’s junior senator, Chris Murphy, who’s been outspoken about gun laws since the killing of 20 children and six adult staff members at the school.
Four months after Sandy Hook, the Senate -- controlled by Democrats at the time -- fell short of the votes needed to advance legislation that would have expanded background checks for gun purchasers. The vote was viewed as a major defeat for gun-control advocates and no subsequent efforts have come as close to passing.
Each mass shooting in the U.S. reignites debate over the country’s treatment of gun rights as virtually sacrosanct. Firearms are involved in the deaths of more than 33,000 people in the U.S. annually, about two-thirds of which are suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Last year, 49 people were killed at an Orlando nightclub. It prompted Democrats to again raise the issue, forcing a series of votes in the Senate, by then under Republican control. None of those efforts succeeded.
After House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically injured in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in June, Republicans said it didn’t show new gun laws were needed. Some suggested lawmakers arming themselves was a better solution.
Trump, who won the presidency with the backing of the National Rifle Association, opposes expanded background checks yet has said he supports efforts to strengthen the current system.
He drew rebukes from gun-control advocates during the 2016 campaign when he seemed to suggest that gun-rights activists take matters into their own hands if Democrat Hillary Clinton was elected and got to nominate federal judges.
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks," Trump said at an August 2016 rally, adding when the crowd responded with boos, "Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don’t know."
Weeks after taking office, Trump signed legislation rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase guns.
In Las Vegas, authorities said a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on an outdoor country-music festival below, sending people fleeing, according to the Associated Press. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo identified the suspect as a man named Stephen Paddock.