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News Brief: Trump In Las Vegas, Gun Control, Theresa May's Troubles


And let's begin in Las Vegas where President Trump is going to pay a visit today. Investigators, meanwhile, are hard at work. Police are assembling a picture of Sunday night's attack. One thing they have learned is that the story begins well before Sunday, when the actual attack happened. A shooter made meticulous preparations.

Steve, you are there. You are in Vegas. Have you been able to learn anything more about this? Specifically, how did he get so much equipment up to that upper floor?


Well, the key thing to remember, Rachel, is that he was a customer. He was a player. He was a gambler. And so people in that hotel - at Mandalay Bay - were not going to look too closely at him, and this is a delicate balance that casino security officials face. They want to make sure that it's an extremely secure environment, and we're told they take extreme security measures. But they're trying to do it all in a very subtle way, and there are not, for example, metal detectors at the entrances of casinos of the sort that you would see at an airport. So if he shows up as he did with multiple suitcases, he could bring a lot of things in.

And we're learning more of what was brought in - not just weapons, as we've heard, not just tripods to steady those weapons, but also, apparently, cameras, that in the days before the attack, he seemed to have mounted on the peephole of his door in another location so that he could watch police approaching once his shooting began.

And when you hear details like that, Rachel, you recognize what authorities are up against when there's a determined attacker who is sophisticated and able to take quite a lot of time to prepare the ground for himself, or at some point, perhaps, herself.

MARTIN: So of course, the shooting is reigniting the debate about gun control. It happens every time, it seems, that there's a mass shooting. From your vantage point, as you have thought about this from there in Vegas, how real is the debate this time?

INSKEEP: Well, it's a loud debate, but you sense the complexity when you talk with people here in Las Vegas. You go up and down the Las Vegas Strip, which we're overlooking yet again this morning - all the different casinos - huge casinos up and down the place here - and you talk with people on the street. Some of them favor gun control, stronger gun control measures. A guy yesterday was just saying, take all the guns away, we don't need them. But other people are not sure that that would really make much difference.

And not everybody believes, as you might guess - we spoke yesterday with Darrell Gibbs. He's a man from Texas. He's here in Vegas to look after his daughter because she was shot and wounded at the concert on Sunday night. And Mr. Gibbs told us that despite his daughter's injury, he does not much favor gun regulation. Let's listen.

DARRELL GIBBS: I'm a Second Amendment person. I carry a weapon. And the weapons didn't do it. It was a person behind them. This guy made a conscious decision to affect thousands and thousands of lives.

INSKEEP: And the debate over guns, Rachel - over gun regulation - is just one part of a broader discussion that Las Vegas certainly faces and that we face as a country. Just how do you secure areas that have big crowds? And millions of people every year visit Las Vegas, millions of people visit other sites around the country. And the question for security experts is, how do you have a free society that's also a safe society where guns are going to be allowed?

MARTIN: Yeah, and in big spaces like that, often you have to go through these sensors. The - but the difference here was that the guy was shooting down from above. And so there was nothing that could've prevented...

INSKEEP: Yes, yes, which, in many an urban area, is going to be the case. We were talking with a security expert yesterday who was pointing out - it's disturbing to hear the scenarios. If you were at a concert in Central Park, there are high buildings from which that can be targeted. You can go on quite at some length and talk about the different scenarios that would be difficult to defend against.

MARTIN: All right, let's bring in NPR's Mara Liasson now because President Trump is going to get on a plane today. He's going to go to Las Vegas. And, you know, this has all reignited the debate over gun control in Washington, Mara. What are Republican lawmakers saying at this point?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, Republicans and the White House are saying, now is not the time to discuss gun restrictions or any policy response so soon after this massacre, although President Trump has several times immediately after mass shootings by Muslims called for a policy response. And of course, that was his Muslim ban.

Democrats, on the other hand, want to do something to stop this kind of mass carnage. And they are talking about a ban on accessories like the bump stock that the Las Vegas shooter used to convert his semiautomatic weapon into something more like a machine gun.

MARTIN: And that was key - right? - because you can buy things that will turn a weapon into an automatic weapon, and that's where a focus of the debate is now. Is the president expected to say anything about gun control today in Vegas?

LIASSON: Well, you know, he has said that the - he will talk about - or it's time to talk about gun restrictions as time goes by. We're not sure exactly what he means by that. He will be asked about this if reporters get a chance. One effect of the Las Vegas shooting on gun legislation already appears to be to slow down a Republican bill that would loosen restrictions on the sale of gun silencers. This is something working its way through the House of Representatives. It's supported by the president's son, Don Jr. And yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that there would not be a vote on that bill any time soon.

MARTIN: Worth noting - the president was doing a different kind of consoling in Puerto Rico yesterday, in San Juan, visiting victims of Hurricane Maria. In a press conference, he gave some comments. He took the opportunity to talk about how expensive recovery there is going to be. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown a budget a little out of whack.

MARTIN: Some people will say, ah, this is Trump talking like Trump talks. But are we learning anything about how the president navigates these kind of really fragile, emotional situations?

LIASSON: Well, these were very - two very different situations, of course - Las Vegas and Puerto Rico. And the president has had two very different responses. On Las Vegas, he has mostly stuck to the script, offered condolences, words of unity, talking much like presidents in the past have talked after horrific incidents like this. But in Puerto Rico, after making a series of combative and disparaging remarks about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, the response was very different.

Yesterday, he made some news, and he told Fox News in an interview that Puerto Rico's debt to Wall Street would have to be, quote, "wiped out" - not exactly sure what he has in mind. But recently, Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy, and they owe $74 billion to Wall Street.

MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks so much for joining us, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: And yes, President Trump will be in Las Vegas today. Thanks, also, to our Steve Inskeep, who is on the ground there reporting.

INSKEEP: You bet.


MARTIN: We now go to Manchester, England, where the U.K.'s ruling Conservative Party is holding its annual meeting after last summer's electoral disaster. Prime Minister Theresa May, who called the election, is struggling to assert her authority over a party in disarray. The sharks are circling. She's already been upstaged by her own foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. The stakes are high. Theresa May closes out the meeting with a speech later this afternoon. NPR's Frank Langfitt is in Manchester.

Hey, Frank. What's the mood there?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Rachel. It's really fascinating. You know, the - just like you were saying, the Conservative Party actually lost their parliamentary majority in last June's vote, but they won overall, remained in power. But, you know, if you walk around this convention center right now, you would feel like they lost. They are in - really disarray. There's a sense of an identity crisis. They're not sure who they - what they stand for. There's not really a sense of where they're going. And it reminds me a little bit about the way the Democrats in the United States felt last November after Hillary Clinton - that surprise loss to Donald Trump.

MARTIN: A big come-to-Jesus moment, trying to figure out where they go from there - so...

LANGFITT: Yeah, very much so here.

MARTIN: When Theresa May called the election last spring, she looked unbeatable at that point, though.

LANGFITT: She did. You know, you remember when she did it, it was back in April. They were 20 points up, and people were talking about her like Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair - someone who'd be in power for a long time. She has lasted longer than many thought. Most people think one of the reasons she's staying in and they're keeping her is, they need stability because they're heading towards Brexit - you know, leaving the European Union - incredibly difficult thing for this country to do, lots of problems and risks there.

In the last several weeks though - like, you were mentioning Boris Johnson - she is - he is the foreign secretary. He's publicly challenged her on Brexit in British newspapers. He's been calling for a sharp break with the European Union, no attempt to kind of stay in that big economic market. People in the party actually, recently, have been calling for May to fire him. She hasn't done that yet. And politicians in Brussels yesterday were saying that actually, they don't know who speaks for Britain. So there really is a sense of confusion here - who's exactly in charge and where it's all headed.

MARTIN: Is there something bigger happening?

LANGFITT: I think there is. You know, what's interesting here is, you know, British politics used to be very predictable, as American politics did as well. And these days, it - there's a greater sense of uncertainty, political polarization. You know, Jeremy Corbyn - he's the head of the Labor Party. He is a socialist. He did very well in the June election, even though he didn't quite win. And he ran this campaign that was a lot like Bernie Sanders' campaign in the United States, reaching out to disenfranchised young people who were kind of worried - maybe my economic prospect's not going to be like my parents'.

This has reopened a debate on capitalism and socialism in this country. And I was talking to conservatives at the conference yesterday, and they said, we thought we won this debate back in the '80s under Margaret Thatcher. And instead, I think like the U.S., there's a sense that the old rules and the old assumptions don't really apply here anymore.

MARTIN: But you think May is good for the moment, or should she be looking for a job?

LANGFITT: I think she is good for the moment. She's got a speech this afternoon. We'll see how she does. I think she's good for a while, but it is unpredictable, so we'll just have to see.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Frank Langfitt, reporting from Manchester, England, this morning. Hey, Frank, thanks, as always.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Rachel.


Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.