RI officials say Congress needs to act after Vegas shooting

Debris is strewn through the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island officials are expressing shock and anger and calling for stronger gun control laws after at least 50 people were killed in a shooting at an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas.

More than 500 people were injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Gov. Gina Raimondo says she’s grief-stricken. The Democratic governor says Rhode Island should ban military-style weapons. She ordered that U.S. and Rhode Island flags at state facilities be flown at half-staff until Friday to honor the victims.

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner says that with the news coming out of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico, he’s calling on people to look out for each other and “do our part to build a better world.”

Democratic U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin expressed their condolences and called on Congress to act.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said:

“The horror on the streets of Las Vegas is unimaginable. My heart goes out to the victims of this senseless violence, to their loved ones, and to all those affected. Thank you to the first responders for their brave work.

“While we have much to learn about this terrible incident, we know mass shootings are all too familiar in America. And we know we can protect our communities better. How many lives must be lost before we act?”

Congressman Jim Langevin:

“The developing news out of Las Vegas is utterly shocking and horrifying. My heart aches for the victims of last night’s shooting, concertgoers who were enjoying a night of music before a shooter took their lives in a senseless act of violence. I am also immensely grateful for the first responders and medical professionals working to tend the hundreds of wounded.

“Now, more than ever, we must unite to combat the growing epidemic of violence in this country. As Las Vegas law enforcement continues their investigation, I pray for the victims and their families and that we as a society can join together to prevent future such attacks.”

Congressman David Cicilline:

“Last night, a gunman opened fire on the Las Vegas Strip. The victims were innocent Americans attending a country music festival. 50 are dead. More than 400 were taken to area hospitals. I am keeping them in my thoughts and prayers today.”

“This was the worst mass shooting in American history. And every day, in cities and towns across America, this epidemic of gun violence is ending lives and destroying families. It has to stop. And Congress has the responsibility to act.”

“To my Republican colleagues who control the House – please join us to and show the American people we are united in the face of this crisis. Let’s come together and end this violence.”

Sen. Jack Reed:

“All of our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Law enforcement is still investigating what happened and we’re waiting for more details. But I think once again this tragic mass-shooting underscores the need to enact more responsible laws with respect to access to automatic weapons. Too many families have suffered tragic losses as a result of gun deaths and injuries. Gun violence is a public health burden that demands a national assessment of potential causes and preventative actions by the federal government to address this issue in a fact-driven, comprehensive way.

“I supported the assault weapons ban that unfortunately lapsed during the Bush Administration, and since have supported attempts to revive it. These are military weapons – some of which I used when I was a paratrooper. They shouldn’t be as easy to access as they can be today.

“We need more thorough background checks, and to close loopholes that help bad actors circumvent laws on the books. We can craft commonsense, responsible gun laws without compromising our Constitutional rights.

“There is still much we do not know about last night’s attack, but it has again undermined our shared sense of security and irreparably harmed hundreds of American families. Congress cannot continue to refuse to take action on rational and responsible gun control legislation.”

GOP National Committeewoman for Rhode Island Lee Ann Sennick issued a statement Monday in response to the Democratic delegation’s comments.

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. As details emerge, I hope we will come together in our grief to support all those affected by this tragedy. We don’t have all the facts yet surrounding this incident, so it is not the time for politically motivated proclamations on gun control. We have laws in our country to deter the use of weapons for criminal behavior and despite this, criminals still break those laws and commit heinous acts of violence. While it is natural in the wake of a tragedy to question why and how something so awful could have happened, it is incumbent on our leaders and legislators to ensure that one person’s act of violence does not result in law abiding citizens losing their rights.”

Rhode Island State Police Detective Conor O’Donnell and his girlfriend were in the crowd when the shooting took place. His father, former state police Superintendent Steven O’Donnell, said they were unhurt, and that his son worked to help the victims after getting his girlfriend to safety.

Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Ann Assumpico said:

“Detective Conor S. O’Donnell, a six-year veteran of the Rhode Island State Police, was among thousands of people attending the country musical festival in Las Vegas where a tragic mass shooting occurred early this morning. We are relieved to report that Detective O’Donnell was not injured. We also were proud to learn that he joined several other off-duty police officers who assisted victims at the scene.

“The Rhode Island State Police extends its deepest condolences to all the victims and their families, especially those police officers, both on- and off-duty, who were among those shot and killed by the gunman.

“Our thoughts are also with the men and women who serve with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, as well as all other first-responders who tended to the hundreds of innocent victims killed and injured at the scene.

“The Rhode Island State Police, like most law enforcement agencies, undergoes extensive training to ensure we’re providing the best possible level of safety and security for all residents and visitors to our state. We also urge all Rhode Islanders to remain vigilant, whether at home or while travelling. We encourage people to report any suspicious activity by calling 911 or your local police department. If you see something, say something. We need everyone’s help to keep our state safe.”

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin:

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the hundreds of people that were killed or injured in the tragic events that unfolded last evening in Las Vegas. We owe deep gratitude to law enforcement officials, firefighters, EMTs, medical staff and all those on the ground who are doing everything they can to assist those affected.

“I was heartened to learn, but not surprised, of the bravery of one of our own – Rhode Island State Police Detective Conor O’Donnell – who was among the off-duty law enforcement officials at the concert who helped the victims on the scene. I have no doubt that the quick thinking by the law enforcement officials in attendance helped save many lives.

“This is still very early in the investigation, and we will learn much more about the motives of the shooter in the coming days. Needless to say, this is simply the latest and deadliest example of gun violence in this country, which has taken the lives of far too many innocent people. For now, though, let us all pray for the victims and their families, as well as for our first responders.”