A day after a shooting at a high school in South Florida claimed the lives of over a dozen students and teachers, President Donald Trump delivered an address on the school shooting that kept focus on consoling families and the subject of mental health. The speech did not, however, mention gun control or guns. The president also said he plans to visit Parkland, Florida, the site of the Wednesday, Feb. 14, mass shooting.
"Each person, who was stolen from us yesterday, had a full life ahead of them, a life filled with wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise," the president said at the White House on Thursday, Feb. 15. "Each one had dreams to pursue, love to give and talents to share with the world. And each one had a family to whom they meant everything in the world."
Later in his address, Trump directed comments specifically to young viewers.
"I want to speak now directly to America's children, especially those who feel lost, alone, confused, or even scared. I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be," Trump said. "You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer, or a faith leader. Answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness."
The lack of mention of guns in the president's address reflected the long-established contrast between how Republicans and Democrats have responded to such shootings in the past.
Speaking on the Senate floor just after the president's address, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) reference a specific firearm and asked, "So when is enough going to be enough?"
"I have hunted all my life, I have had guns all my life. I still hunt with my son. But an AR-15 is not for hunting, it's for killing," the senator said. "But despite these horrific events that are occurring over and over, these tragedies have led so many of us to come right here to this floor and to beg our colleagues to take common sense actions that we all know will help protect our children and our fellow citizens from these kinds of tragedies. And we get nowhere."
During an interview on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Florida's other U.S. senator, Republican Marco Rubio, focused on the mental stability of the alleged shooter.
What Happened In South Florida?
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is alleged to have been committed by a 19-year-old gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle. The attack on the school's three-story building resulted in the death of at least 17 people, a group comprised of teachers and students. The shooting also resulted in the injury of 15 others, according to The Miami Herald.
The alleged gunman was a student who had been expelled at the South Florida high school. Along with an AR-15 rifle — the same firearm used to commit the 2012 attack on Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, per CNN — the 19-year-old South Florida suspect is alleged to have entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School donning a gas mask and equipped with smoke bombs, The Miami Herald reported. He has been charged with 17 counts of murder.
Trump's press conference on Thursday comes after the president opted not to publicly comment on the South Florida shooting on the same day the attack occurred, despite the advice of White House advisors, The New York Times Maggie Haberman said.
Hours before his televised address, however, the president tweeted about the shooting.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," Trump said on Twitter. "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"
According to CNN White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, Thursday marked the fourth time that President Trump delivered a press conference after a major shooting. His presidency began a little under a year and one month before Wednesday's shooting in Parkland, Florida.