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White House: Deadliest Shooting in US History No Reason to Have "Political Debate" About Guns

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says too early to call murder of 58 people "domestic terrorism" and that debate about gun control not yet appropriate

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducts the daily press briefing at the White House October 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sanders announced that President Donald Trump will travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday, three days after at least 58 people were killed when a man opened fire on a country music festival, the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Contrary to the popular demand that the conversation be put front and center, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Monday afternoon that the Trump administration simply does not want to talk about gun control in the immediate wake of Sunday night's mass shooting in Las Vegas in which at least 58 people were killed.

At an afternoon press briefing, repeatedly pressed on the issue, Huckabee Sanders called it "premature" to have a debate about the politics of guns.

"There's a time and a place to debate, but now is the time to unite as a country," she said.

That message is diametrically opposite to what gun control advocates and some Democratic lawmakers were saying on Monday. "Tragedies like Las Vegas have happened too many times," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a tweet. "We need to have the conversation about how to stop gun violence. We need it NOW."

Author and activist Naomi Klein put the White House's position in the context of a broader pattern of dodging and denial that is well-worn in right-wing political circles:

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who represents the state of Connecticut where the 2012 mass killing of schoolchildren in the town of Sandy Hook took place, called on Congress to "get off its ass and do something" on the issue of gun violence and mass shootings.

And though President Trump has repeatedly jumped to conclusions in the wake of attacks in which he perceived the assailant(s) as Muslim, Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said the White House in this case was waiting for the "facts" to emerge before calling Sunday night's attack—the most deadly mass shooting ever to take place in U.S. history—an act of "domestic terrorism."


Writing at Rolling Stone on Monday, journalist Tim Dickinson dismissed those who argue the immediate aftermath of the latest massacre is the wrong time to politicize guns or mass violence—and placed blame for that squarely at the feet of the nation's powerful gun industry lobby and the lawmakers who do their bidding.

"America's soft underbelly is vulnerable to terrorist attack because of the political power of the National Rifle Association," Dickinson wrote. "Full stop."

He continued:

And we have never had a president more indebted to the NRA than Donald Trump. Trump took office thanks to more than $30 million in NRA spending on his behalf. Appearing at the gun lobby's national convention earlier this year, Trump thanked the NRA and promised to advance its agenda. "You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you," he said.

On Monday, President Trump piously quoted the Bible and condemned an "act of pure evil." But he made no promise of federal action or intention to prevent future bloodshed. The president only directed that "our great flag" be flown at half mast. In the War on Terror – as prosecuted at home, against those who would commit atrocities with guns – the president might as well be waving a white flag of surrender.

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