LAS VEGAS – Last night, what was intended to be a relaxed country music concert abruptly became the scene of what is now being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Sunday night, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay hotel, mowing down scores of concert-goers attending the outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas strip. More than 50 people are believed to have died and over 500 were injured in the carnage. Fourteen of the injured are believed to be in critical condition.
Little is yet known about the perpetrator and his motives. Paddock — who police believe killed himself before they gained access to the room from which he shot — is a white man and, according to his brother, had no strong political or religious affiliations.
Police have labeled the act a “lone wolf” attack and have stated that it is not a terror-related incident. However, Daesh (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting via its news agency that Paddock converted to Islam “months ago.” However, the infamous militant group provided no evidence to support its claim.
“Not an avid gun guy at all…where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background,” gunman’s brother says pic.twitter.com/EMSKLQGYFM
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 2, 2017
U.S. politicians, for the most part, responded in a characteristic manner and along partisan lines. Several Democrats offered condolences along with strong messages urging Congress to pass gun control measures, while numerous Republicans offered thoughts and prayers without calling for changes to existing policy.
While U.S. politicians responded as expected, only the president seemed to deviate from his typical response to mass killings occurring in the Western world. Trump’s past reactions to mass shootings and similar tragedies have often involved making claims regarding terrorism prior to official confirmation and notably ignoring terror attacks targeting Muslims in the West.
Watch | President Trump responds to Las Vegas shooting
For instance, in 2015, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting, Trump responded to the events by asserting that Islamic terror was to blame given the perpetrators’ names, and calling it an “Islamic disaster” before authorities confirmed any connection to terrorism or religion. During the attacks in Germany and Turkey, Trump blamed “Islamic terrorists” for the attacks before any sort of official statement was made.
Then, earlier this year in June, Trump responded to the London Bridge attack by tweeting about being “smart, vigilant and tough” well before UK authorities identified terror as a motive behind the attack. In contrast, just weeks later, a man in London drove a van into a group of Muslims gathered outside a mosque, killing one and injuring 10 others. Even though UK authorities investigated the attack as being terror-related, Trump did not offer a public response. The August bombing of a mosque in Minnesota also failed to garner an expression of sympathy from the President.
However, following last night’s shooting, Trump did not respond as he has in the past, even though the attack may have been terrorist-related after all. Trump’s first reaction to the shooting was a tweet that expressed condolences to the victims and their families. “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting,” Trump wrote. “God bless you!” At a press conference Monday morning, Trump condemned the attack as an “act of pure evil” and called for national unity.
He did not, however, make any comment regarding terrorism or the shooter’s alleged ties to Daesh, which many media outlets have reported as fact despite possessing no concrete evidence. Either Trump was informed that the potential tie to Daesh was untrue or was unwilling to acknowledge that the terror group that is ostensibly the motivation behind his much touted “travel ban” could include members of his own ethnicity and nationality.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as further information becomes available.
Top photo | Police officers and medical personnel stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (gotpap/STAR MAX/IPx)