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US reels as 59 killed in Las Vegas massacre

It was a hail of bullets that marked the start of what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, and again left America confronting the toxic and ever-emotional issue of how to regulate the right to bear arms.

Police have not yet revealed how many bullets Stephen Paddock, a so-called lone wolf, used when he opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel room.

But by the time he was finished - the 64-year-old big spending millionaire gambler killed himself before police stormed his room - he had taken the lives of at least 59 people and wounded another 527.

Law enforcement officials said last night that they had found at least 17 rifles in Paddock's hotel room, including Armalite AR-15-style assault rifles.

As the nation was left reeling from the massacre, carried out in one of the world's most iconic cities, Donald Trump sought to offer solace and condolence, describing it as an "act of pure evil".

"In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has," he said, speaking from the White House.

Police said Paddock, a divorced retired accountant and real estate investor who lived in Mesquite, 80 miles to the northeast of Las Vegas, had checked into a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort on Thursday.

Between then and 10.06pm on Sunday, when he started shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival where 22,000 people had gathered to watch country stars from across the nation, hotel staff entered his room several times but saw nothing untoward.

At the moment he began shooting, Jason Aldean, a star from Nashville, was performing. Video footage posted online showed him running for cover as the sound of automatic fire sounded out across the open air festival on the Las Vegas Strip. "Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don't know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe," Aldean later wrote on his Instagram account.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."

As Las Vegas woke up to the news, people in the usually humming gambling and leisure capital were on Monday stunned and horrified.

Austin Wayne, of Tulsa Oklahoma, said he had been in a casino opposite where the shooting took place. He struggled to find words to sum up the experience.

"It was gunshots and everyone was running. You didn't know what to do or where it was coming from," he said. "Everybody was scared, running, getting down. Words can't even explain it."

British tennis star Laura Robson was among those attending the concert.

Asked by a Twitter follower if she was all right, she wrote: "I'm okay. We were right there ... sounded like fireworks at first then everyone started running."

She added it had been a "scary" experience.

Hundreds of people have lined up at United Blood Services and University Medical Centre in Las Vegas to donate blood shortly after officials announced a blood drive. There was a six to eight-hour wait for blood donors after a call for help from officials.

Details have emerged of some of the victims. A registered nurse from Big Sandy, Tennessee, Sonny Melton, was the first official victim to be named. His grieving widow Heather has described how she would have died were it not for his quick actions when bullets started flying through the air.

"He saved my life. He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back," she told a radio station in Tennessee. "I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe."

Canadian media identified another victim as Jessica Klymchuk, a 28-year-old mother-of-four from the province of Alberta. Another was named as Jordan McIldoon (23) from British Columbia in Canada.

Officials said an off-duty Las Vegas police officer also died.

Mr Trump, who received millions of dollars for his 2016 presidential campaign from the powerful National Rifle Association, a gun-rights lobbying organisation, did not mention the issue of gun control when he spoke to the nation.

Later, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed it was "too soon" to begin a debate on the issue.

"There's a time and place for a political debate but now is the time to unite as a country," she told reporters. "There's currently an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation a motive has yet to be determined and it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don't know all the facts or what took place last night."

Others believed Monday was precisely the correct time to start the conversation. Mr Trump's challenger in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, said it was essential that America confronted the NRA and demanded the regulation of weapons.

There was no word on a motive for the attack, but one official said there was no indication that the massacre was connected to international terrorism, despite a claim from Islamic State.

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