President Trump's unifying response on Monday to a massive shooting in Las Vegas may have earned bipartisan accolades, but the president could soon find himself drawn into a political debate about how and whether to tighten regulations on guns.
Trump's prepared remarks about the Las Vegas attack -- which he read Monday morning from a TelePrompTer at the White House -- made no mention of the fierce partisan debate that typically surrounds guns and mass shootings. The moment of silence he conducted on the South Lawn struck a solemn chord around the country. And his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, declined to answer a series of gun control questions on Monday by telling reporters she considered it "premature" to discuss policy while investigators still searched for the shooter's motive.
Meanwhile, Democrats -- including Hillary Clinton, Trump's former election rival -- hinted at the political slog over gun control that likely awaits the president and his fellow Republicans.
"I think that President Trump's response was pitch perfect. I mean, he captured the somber mood and framed it perfectly without getting political," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "Now, there's no question about it that the left is gunning for another gun control showdown and debate."
Trump may avoid encountering the gun control debate on Tuesday when he travels to Puerto Rico to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria, O'Connell noted, and he may stave off the showdown on Wednesday by visiting the families of shooting victims in Las Vegas.
"The left is really going to push on this come Wednesday night, Thursday," O'Connell said. "I mean, they're just sort of building up."
Some congressional Democrats moved immediately to reignite the perennial dispute over gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, which claimed at least 58 lives and injured more than 500 others on Sunday evening.
For example, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Congress should "get off its ass and do something" about what he described as the country's gun "epidemic." Murphy has been particularly outspoken about gun violence since a 2012 shooting at an elementary school rocked his state and raised questions about the intersection of mental illnesses and gun rights.
Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, suggested Trump's initial response to the Las Vegas attack demonstrated discipline while delaying an inevitable discussion of the reasons why the suspected shooter was able to obtain such deadly weapons.
"I thought his reaction was temperate. I certainly agree with him, [when] he said...that it's an act of evil," Bannon said. "Of course, I would've liked him to say more about the need to get a handle on the prevalence of automatic weapons."
Why the suspected shooter, Stephen Paddock, had what appeared to be automatic weapons in his possession on Sunday evening remains unknown. What drove him to fire hundreds of rounds into a crowd of country music concert-goers on the Las Vegas strip also remained unknown Monday evening as investigators poured over details from Paddock's past to find clues as to his motive.
The uncertainty surrounding the shooting could allow Trump to stay on the sidelines of the gun control debate until the case becomes clearer, said Sean Noble, a GOP strategist.
"I think he can safely keep politics out of it until we know more about the motive of the shooter. Ultimately, that will frame a lot of this debate," Noble said. "There were clearly a number of failures here - how did he get a fully automatic weapon, and how is it he was able to shoot for as long as he did without return fire from law enforcement?"
Trump was a strong supporter of gun rights during the campaign, when he warned voters that Clinton would work to take away their firearms if she became president. He sparked a controversy last year when he called on "Second Amendment people" to stop Clinton from taking office and installing anti-gun judges, a comment many critics interpreted as an incitement to violence against the Democratic nominee.