WHITE HOUSE —
President Donald Trump ordered flags to fly at half-staff Monday as the nation recoiled in horror at the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in recent U.S. history.
“We are joined together in sadness, shock and grief,” Trump said in a nationally televised address less than 12 hours after the shooting began. “It was an act of pure evil.”
He said he would travel to Las Vegas Wednesday to honor the victims and meet with survivors, one day after he is to visit hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
“In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has,” Trump told the nation. “We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity.
“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,” the president said.
Standing in front of a portrait of George Washington, Trump offered words of sympathy to the families of the victims.
“In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”
Trump did not mention guns in his five-minute address, but the Las Vegas tragedy once again brought the issue of gun control back to center stage in the national debate.
Former Member of Congress Gabby Giffords. who was gravely wounded by a gun-wielding attacker in Arizona six years ago, spoke to reporters along with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, pleading for bipartisan action on stricter gun laws. “The nation is counting on you,” Giffords said.
Kelly called the Las Vegas attack an act of domestic terrorism. “Weapons of war in the hands of a determined killer with a tactical advantage — this was an ambush if there ever was one,” he said.
Kelly, who along with Giffords founded a gun control advocacy group called Americans for Responsible Solutions, said America must make a choice.
WATCH: President Trump's full remarks on Las Vegas shooting
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan Monday urging formation of a Select Committee on Gun Violence to develop “common sense legislation.”
Saying there had been 273 mass shootings in the United States this year, one for every day of the year so far, Pelosi called on her colleague to approve a bipartisan bill now before the House that would strengthen background checks aimed at keeping guns out of “the wrong hands.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posted two tweets Monday, calling for a ban on gun silencers, and mentioning the National Rifle Association.
“Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get,” she wrote. “Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders parried questions about gun control at Monday's briefing, saying it was premature to inject politics less than 24 hours after the Las Vegas tragedy.
“I think before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night, we need to know more facts, and right now we're simply not at that point,” Sanders said.
“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, 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,” she told reporters, cutting short the briefing to attend a moment of silence on the White House lawn for the victims.
Expressions of condolences poured into the White House from around the world. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed shock and outrage. “We cannot tolerate such indiscriminate and massive shooting incident for any reason and I resolutely condemn it,” Abe wrote.
“Las Vegas has long been celebrated by people from around the globe, including many Canadians,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote: “We grieve with this city and the United States. Such acts only strengthen our resolve to stand together, united.”
Obama offers condolences
Former president Barack Obama was also among those responding immediately to the tragedy.
"Michelle & I are praying for the victims in Las Vegas," he posted on Twitter. "Our thoughts are with their families & everyone enduring another senseless tragedy."
Obama saw several mass shootings during his eight years in office, including the attack that killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June of 2016, that had been the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He also led the nation in mourning victims of the San Bernardino, California shootings in 2015, the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut in 2012, and the Fort Hood, Texas killings in 2009.
In Photos: Las Vegas Shooting
Vice President Pence, Former VP Biden
Vice-president Mike Pence issued a series of three tweets offering prayers to the victim and praise to the first responders.
Former vice-president Joe Biden also used Twitter to express his condolences.
“Appalled by the senseless loss of life in Las Vegas. Jill and I hold all those affected and grieving in our hearts.
Expressions of condolences were pouring into the White House from around the world. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed shock and outrage.
“We cannot tolerate such indiscriminate and massive shooting incident for any reason and I resolutely condemn it,” Abe wrote. "Japan expresses its sincere solidarity with the Government of the United States and the people of the United States as they try to overcome this difficult time.”
The mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer expressed his solidarity with the people of Las Vegas, having gone through a mass shooting at a gay night club in June 2016. “Terrible to wake up to the horrific news from Las Vegas,” Dyer tweeted. “Our community stands with Las Vegas during this difficult time.”
A number of scheduled events were canceled and postponed in light of the tragedy in Las Vegas.