WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump said the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue could have been prevented with the help of an armed guard, and later called for "the vile hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism" to be confronted.
"This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil," Mr Trump said during the first of two stops in the Midwest on Saturday, adding that Americans should stand up to "any form of religious hatred or prejudice" in their communities.
Hours earlier, Mr Trump told reporters that the nation's gun laws had "little to do" with the shooting, and suggested that the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh should have had an armed guard on the premises.
News reports indicated that the synagogue had been hosting a bris, or baby-naming ceremony, before the shooting took place.
"If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better," Mr Trump said. "This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect."
Police are normally present at the synagogue for security only on the high holidays.
Mr Trump, whose daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and three grandchildren are Jewish, shifted his tone during an afternoon appearance at the Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis after talking to Ms Trump and her husband.
"Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and the twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby-naming ceremony," Mr Trump said onstage. "This was a baby-naming ceremony at a sacred house of worship on the holy day of Sabbath."
With 11 days until the midterm elections, the President at first wavered on whether to continue with his schedule on Saturday. He briefly considered cancelling a campaign rally, but seemed ready to move forward after a rabbi and pastor delivered prayers onstage at the farmers' conference.
"We can't let evil change our life," Mr Trump said, "and change our schedule."
He later ordered that all American flags at the White House, public grounds, military posts, naval stations and ships be flown at half-mast up till Wednesday as a mark of "solemn respect" for the victims.
He also said he would visit Pittsburgh, but did not mention when.