'It's a very, very sad day for me, personally' - Trump visits Las Vegas after attack
The president and first lady visited Nevada after Trump was repeatedly criticised for making inappropriate comments
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump visited hospital bedsides and a police base in stricken Las Vegas on Wednesday, offering prayers and condolences to the victims of Sunday night's shooting massacre.
However, he failed to engage in a wider discussion about gun violence.
Despite a renewal of efforts in Washington to reform the country’s gun laws, the US president declined to answer a question about the country’s problem with gun violence. “We’re not going to talk about that today,” he said.
"America is truly a nation in mourning," the president instead declared, days after a gunman on the 32nd floor of a hotel and casino opened fire on the crowd at an outdoor country music festival below.
The rampage killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500, many from gunfire, others from chaotic efforts to escape.
In Las Vegas, Mr Trump spoke of the families who "tonight will go to bed in a world that is suddenly empty".
He said: "Our souls are stricken with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter.
"We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain."
Earlier Trump told reporters shortly before leaving the White House that it was "a very sad thing".
“We’re going to pay our respects and to see the police who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time.”
He added: “It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally."
It was a sombre address from a provocateur president who prides himself on commanding strength but sometimes has struggled to project empathy at times of tragedy.
His solemn words in Las Vegas offered a sharp contrast to his trip a day earlier to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, where he spoke of the "expensive" recovery effort on the island and highlighted the relatively low death toll there compared with "a real catastrophe like Katrina" in 2005.
While on route to Las Vegas, Trump appeared animated by other matters, tweeting: “NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!”
The message appeared to be a reference to an NBC report that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, recently called the president “a moron” during a cabinet-level meeting – a report that has not been disputed by Tillerson.
On Wednesday, Trump took a grim tour of Las Vegas, meeting face-to-face with victims and emergency services.
In prepared remarks, he spoke of the courage displayed by those who risked or lost their lives saving loved ones and total strangers.
He described an eyewitness account of police officers standing as bullets slammed around them and trying to direct concert-goers to safety.
He described a military veteran who had rushed to the scene in search of loved ones, but quickly turned to helping victims, using plastic barriers as stretchers for the injured and frantically searching for anything he could use to make splints.
"The example of those whose final act was to sacrifice themselves for those they love should inspire all of us to show more love every day for the people who grace our lives," Mr Trump said.
The president spent about four hours in a city still reeling from the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
His first stop was the University Medical Centre, where he spent over 90 minutes visiting with recovering victims, some with severe injuries, and listening to their stories.
While a serious visit, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was laughter and celebration in some of the visits with eight families affected by the shooting.
Sanders said the visit was a moving experience for the president, who stayed longer at the hospital than planned and amended his formal remarks after the hospital trip.
Trump said after the visit that he had met "some of the most amazing people" and invited them to visit the White House if they're ever in Washington.
Tiffany Huizar (18) a high school student who lives in Santa Ana, California, is recovering from bullet wounds in the stomach and elbow.
She said Mr Trump "was very comforting and like a father figure. ... I feel like a lot of people have negative views about him and what he posts on Twitter and social media and he was absolutely a different guy today in the hospital."
Trump then headed to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police headquarters, where he met with officers, dispatchers and others who'd responded to the shooting Sunday night.