President Donald Trump said that the nation should take unspecified action on mental health issues on Thursday, the day after a shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people and wounded at least 14 more. He said he plans to visit the community to meet with victims’ families.
“Yesterday, a school filled with innocent children and caring teachers became the scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil,” Trump said in a statement from the White House. “No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning.”
He ignored a question about gun control after his statement, and said nothing about guns or gun laws in his address.
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He said that the U.S. must “tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” but offered no specifics.
“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, responded directly to gun-violence questions from Rep. John Lewis at a House hearing earlier Thursday.
“Personally, I think gun violence is a tragedy, what we’re seeing yesterday. And I urge Congress to look into these issues,” Mnuchin said. “I assure you I appreciate the severity and the tragedy and I will speak to the president and other Cabinet members.”
Shortly after Trump spoke, former President Barack Obama called for the country to act on gun control in the wake of the tragedy.
“We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless,” Obama said in a tweet. “Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.”
The 19-year-old gunman, Nikolas Cruz, attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. It was the deadliest school shooting since 20 children and six adults were killed in the December 2012 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Authorities said the Florida shooter used a semiautomatic AR-15-style rifle that he bought legally. Similar guns have been used in many mass shootings, including in Las Vegas last year and Orlando in 2016.
Trump didn’t immediately appear on television after the shooting, instead tweeting a series of reactions. Earlier on Thursday he appeared to blame people around Cruz for not doing more to prevent the incident.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” he wrote on Twitter. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
News reports suggest that school officials, classmates and even strangers were concerned that Cruz could pose a threat. A teacher told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that administrators sent an email last year saying that Cruz was not allowed to carry a backpack on campus. BuzzFeed News reported Thursday that a YouTube user was interviewed by the FBI after alerting the bureau to a comment from a user named Nikolas Cruz that read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”