Washington - President Donald Trump left for Las Vegas on Wednesday to visit a city shaken by the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history, a trip that will test his ability to console a shocked nation.
Trump's trip will be the first time he has had to deal directly with the aftermath of a major mass shooting of the type that have killed hundreds of people in recent years in the United States.
"Well, it's 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," Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving on the trip.
"It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally."
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree with no criminal record, was identified as the gunman in Sunday night's attack, spraying bullets at an open-air concert from the window of his suite in a high-rise hotel and killing 58 people.
Paddock killed himself as police closed in, and investigators have so far said they do not know what motivated him.
Trump said "a lot more" was being learned about Paddock. "That'll be announced at the appropriate time," he said. On Tuesday he called Paddock sick and demented.
Trump has had mixed success in the "consoler-in-chief" role that is periodically expected of U.S. presidents. He inflamed racial tensions after a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he has struggled to strike the right tone in response to hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.
Visiting Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Trump said jokingly that the recovery from Hurricane Maria on the island was blowing the U.S. budget "a little out of whack." During his time in the U.S. territory, he met more with people charged with responding to the crisis than with people affected by it.
The Las Vegas shooting has reignited a debate in the United States about whether more gun control legislation might have prevented what happened. Republicans who control the U.S. Congress have shown little inclination to respond to Democratic calls for gun measures.
Trump, a Republican who firmly aligned himself with gun rights advocates during last year's presidential campaign, was asked on Tuesday whether it was time to debate gun control measures. He responded, "Perhaps that will come. But that's not for now."
Trump held a moment of silence on the White House South Lawn after the Las Vegas attack and ordered flags lowered to half-staff. He has called the massacre "an act of pure evil."
In Las Vegas, the president will meet with friends and family of the victims, offer support for the wounded and thank first responders, the White House said.