US leaders reacted with horror and sorrow to the mass shooting Sunday at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, with some calling for action on gun control as the death toll mounted.
President Donald Trump decried the shooting as an “act of evil” and called it “horrific” in his first public remarks since a gunman killed 26 people in the Texas church.
“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they love,” Trump said from Tokyo, where he is traveling on a trip through Asia.
Trump said his “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families, but he did not suggest plans to take any legislative or other policy action to address the shooting.
Sunday’s shooting happened in the late morning during Sunday service, causing a flood of lawmakers from across the country to offer their condolences and statements about gun violence in America.
“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said in a statement. “Ask yourself – how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.”
Murphy has been a vocal supporter of gun control since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 killed 20 children and six adults.
The renewed calls for action on gun control follow the recent massacre in Las Vegas, which killed 58 people and injured nearly 500, making it the deadliest shooting in modern US history. That gunman used a “bump fire stock,” a device which allows a semiautomatic weapon to function similarly to an automatic weapon. Some lawmakers proposed Congress look into legislation to ban the device, but there has been little action on the matter on Capitol Hill.
“My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs,” Murphy said. “Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.”
Former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who has pushed for gun control since she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011, called the frequency of mass shootings “alarming” and “not normal” in a tweet Sunday night.
“I am praying that our lawmakers find the courage to face our nation’s gun violence problem. This must stop. #SutherlandSprings,” she tweeted.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana who was critically injured in a mass shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, in June, praised the first responders who arrived at the scene in Sutherland.
Texas officials, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, also commented on the shooting in their home state, offering thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and praising the first responders.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas who represents Sutherland Springs, said in a statement that he is monitoring the investigation and offered local officials “the full resources” of his office. He added that the town has “a special place in my heart.
Earlier Sunday, Trump tweeted from Tokyo that he was monitoring the situation.
“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas,” the President wrote.
The White House said Sunday that Trump is receiving regular updates.
“The President has been briefed several times and is continuing to receive regular updates on the tragic shooting” in Texas, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, adding that Trump had spoken with Abbott.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends and families affected,” Sanders said. “May God comfort them all in this time of tragedy.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for further updates.