President Donald Trump, taking on his most difficult task yet as the nation’s consoler-in-chief, praised first responders, declined to talk gun laws, and assured Las Vegas that the entire nation mourns with the city.
Arriving with first lady Melania Trump, the president met with doctors who treated Sunday nights’ shooting victims and with some “absolutely terribly wounded” patients. He then met with emergency workers, including Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, to thank them for their “bravery” and “incredible” efforts.
“America is truly a nation in mourning,” the president said, three days after Stephen Paddock, firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, opened fire on the crowd at a country music festival below. The bullets killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others.
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Asked about guns in America, he replied, “”We’re not going to talk about that today.”
Some residents, reeling from the last few days, weren’t sure what to make of the visit. Others were grateful.
“I thought it was a great honor that he would come and speak to us, especially so soon after the events,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Trooper Jeremy Tye, who was on the scene Sunday night, told reporters on Wednesday. “It was the greatest honor of my life so far.”
“As the leader of the United States of America, he should have come,” 27 -year-old Vegas resident Dimarko Shoulders told TheWrap. “But what good does that actually do?”
“He should have been here a lot quicker,” said one first responder, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “But I guess I understand.”
On Las Vegas Boulevard, beverage sales manager Robyn Rafail left a bouquet of flowers at a makeshift memorial near the site of the killings. Her accompanying card read: “Wishing you peace and healing in this sad time.”
“Anyone who can come, should come,” she told TheWrap. “They need to see this.”
Rafail said she was pro-gun but that Sunday’s tragedy has “shifted” her belief, making her more “open to talking about gun control.” She and her husband moved to Vegas from California three years ago because they were looking for a more communal experience and a better life.
“You never think something like this could happen to your town,” she said. “And then it does.”
A Luxor casino worker, who asked not to be named because she was not authorized to speak to reporters, said she was torn about Trump’s visit.
“I obviously don’t agree with a lot of things he said,” she told TheWrap. “It’s hard to process it when so much is going on right now.”