Vice President Mike Pence mourned with the Las Vegas community Saturday and, in a nine-minute speech delivered from City Hall, vowed that evil won’t overshadow the love that exists in the United States.
He pointed to the first responders, medical professionals and good Samaritans who scrambled to save lives in the shooting aftermath as proof of Americans’ unbreakable bond.
“On Sunday night, Las Vegas came face to face with pure evil. But no evil, no act of violence will ever diminish the strength and goodness of the American people,” he said. “As President Trump said on Monday morning, our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”
The vice president and his wife, Karen, traveled to Las Vegas on Saturday morning and addressed community members who participated in a “faith unity walk,” a seven-mile trek from four different starting points all converging on City Hall.
Pence said the president asked them to be there and stand with the Las Vegas community as it heals from a tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured nearly 500 others. The two-hour trip also marks the vice president’s first public trip to Nevada since assuming office in January, coming after he canceled a planned speech at a fundraiser hosted by gubernatorial hopeful and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt in August to assist with Hurricane Harvey planning.
He echoed much of what Trump said during his visit days earlier, especially gratitude for first responders and other “heroes” who emerged that night.
“As President Trump said here on Wednesday, in the depths of horror, we will always find hope in the men and women who risk their lives for ours,” Pence said. “We find hope in the heroic actions of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the fire department and all the first responders on that night who, without regard to their personal safety, rushed into harm’s way. Their actions were in the highest tradition of law enforcement, and their actions undoubtedly saved lives that night.”
Pence spent a considerable amount of time visiting with attendees after the speech, including Dana Owen, who’s son-in-law and daughter were caught in the shooting and mentioned in the vice president’s remarks.
“It kind of touched his heart,” he said. “He’s a good man, he’s got a good heart.”
Joseph Callahan didn’t speak with Pence, but said the trips by Trump and the vice president reflected positively on Las Vegas’s response.
“When someone that high up says ‘You know, you guys did everything correct,’ that just shines bright on the city and who we are,” he said.
The healing-oriented event drew a number of Nevada politicians, including Sens. Dean Heller, and Catherine Cortez Masto; Reps. Jacky Rosen, Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus; Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman; state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson; and state Sen. Becky Harris.
Goodman called on the community and world to honor the people who were injured or lost their lives and not dwell on the “horrific, senseless animal” who committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. She also emphasized the city’s resilience and safety.
“We will not be defined by hate, violence,” Goodman said. “We will not be defined by anger, and we will not be defined by fear.”
Although most speakers stressed the need for unity following the remarks, Titus notably added a call for action on gun control to her remarks. Earlier this week, the congresswoman announced she’s backing a bill that would ban devices allowing gunfire that mimics the rate of an automatic weapon.
Investigators recovered a dozen so-called bump stocks from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel room where the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, carried out his attack.
“Let us also pray for those who are in power, that they will have the wisdom, the courage, and the resolve to come together to find ways to end the gun violence that plagues our nation,” Titus said. “From elementary schools to college campuses, from movie theaters to night clubs, from city streets to country music concerts — this cannot go on.”
Heller, who recently issued a letter asking federal regulators to reconsider the legal status of bump stocks, didn’t mention firearms or gun violence during his remarks but stressed that in a strange way the “heartbreaking” shooting had brought the city and its residents closer together.
“Through this pain, there’s a sense of pride as well,” he said. “Beyond the neon lights and the attraction of Las Vegas beats the heart of a true home, a true family, a true community of faith.”
Many in the crowd, including Bobby Dragone, said that they appreciated Pence’s words especially given the vice president’s prominent and passionate Christian faith.
“We’re very proud to have him as a vice president, and we’re glad that he was here, because we’re Vegas Strong,” she said. “It brought tears to my eyes, so I’m grateful.”
Pence was scheduled to spend only two hours in Las Vegas, before departing to Indianapolis ahead of a planned Sunday visit to a Colts game.
After the speeches inside City Hall, event organizers released 58 doves outside — one for each person killed in the shooting.