Updated 12:40 a.m. Oct. 28
Elected officials from Pittsburgh and around Pennsylvania are reacting to a shooting at a Squirrel Hill synagogue that left 11 people dead and six injured.
“This is an incredibly sad day for all of us,” Gov. Tom Wolf told reporters gathered near Tree of Life Congregation. He ordered state flags to fly at half-staff to honor the shooting’s victims.
In a statement, Wolf said, “Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way. And in the aftermath of this tragedy, we must come together and take action to prevent these tragedies in the future. We cannot accept this violence as normal.”
Mayor Bill Peduto said on CNN there were no warning signs “that we would experience an attack against out Jewish community. … It ended up being one of the worst days in our city’s history.”
“In Pittsburgh, there’s a lot of discussion about how we’re a sports town,” Peduto said. “When it comes to tragedies like today, we show what the black and gold really means. It’s the effort to support one another, and that’s why we’ll get by. We’re stronger than hate.”
Earlier Saturday, the mayor met with leaders of the city’s Jewish community and told them “of the outpouring of love & support from across our city, our nation & our world.”
Following the Saturday morning shooting, responses and condolences poured in from elected officials, including state House Speaker Mike Turzai, state Sen. Jay Costa, Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators, and U.S. Rep Mike Doyle, whose district includes the city of Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at the scene, “These are our friends and neighbors,” adding that he and other elected officials live nearby and grew up in the area. “It’s shocking, when the list of victims comes out, it’s going to people we know.”
In a statement, state Rep. Dan Frankel, who represents Squirrel Hill, said his “heart aches for the loss to our city and our community. The Tree of Life has provided comfort and support to families for decades. Our whole community is in mourning. I stand with them, and all our neighbors in grief.”
“While today is a day of grieving, tomorrow we have to begin the discussion in our communities and our country about what it means when people with weapons are incited to violence, divided by hate and seeking scapegoats,” Frankel, who co-chairs a House caucus against gun violence, continued. “It is terrible, terrible to live in fear. No community should feel like a target.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny County said in a statement, “Moving forward, I and my colleagues in the legislature will continue to support law enforcement and our local communities, and by working together, we can help make our state a place where all people are safe in their homes, schools and daily lives, and where we all respect the contributions, dignity and humanity of every Pennsylvanian.”
Speaking at the Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis, President Donald Trump called the shooting “pure evil, hard to believe and frankly something unimaginable.”
“Our nation and world are shocked and stunned by grief,” he said. “Anti-semitic acts — you wouldn’t think it possible in this day and age, but we don’t seem to learn from past. … The vile, hate-filled poison of anti-semitism must be confronted everywhere it appears.”
In earlier remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Trump said, “If they had some kind of protection inside the temple maybe it would have been very much a different situation. They didn’t and he was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.” The president also praised the police response and said he spoke with Wolf and Mayor Bill Peduto.
In response to Trump’s comments, John Woodrow Cox, a Washington Post reporter who covers gun violence, tweeted, “The notion that armed security guarantees safety is absolutely false. The evidence is overwhelming.”
Trump also called for lawmakers to “stiffen the law in terms of the death penalty.”
“People who do this should get the death penalty,” he said. “Anyone who does this to innocent people in temple or church, they should really suffer the ultimate price. Some people disagree with me and I can’t imagine why, but this has to stop.”
While Trump is not the first politician to propose a mandatory death penalty for mass shooters, there is no conclusive research that shows the punishment is an effective crime deterrent.
Former President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who lived in the Philly suburbs as a teen, also sent condolences.