In a tweet posted Thursday, former President Barack Obama urged "long overdue" legislative action on gun control in the wake of Wednesday's deadly school shooting in Florida. His tweet came minutes after President Donald Trump addressed the nation about the need to better address mental health issues and school security. Although Trump said his administration was committed to making schools safer, he notably did not mention gun control in his speech Thursday. As a result, Obama's statement appears to be a striking contrast to the president's remarks.
"We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless," Obama tweeted Thursday. "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."
Although many critics have found it odd that Trump chose not to mention gun control, or even guns, in his address to the nation Thursday, his avoidance of the topic is not altogether surprising. Trump has previously criticized discussing gun control in the wake of mass shootings. In remarks delivered in early October after 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, Nevada, Trump said the aftermath of such tragedies was not the time to discuss politics or gun control policies.
Obama is, unfortunately, no stranger to having to address the nation in the wake of a mass school shooting. A number of school shootings, including the 2012 shooting and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, and the 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, occurred while Obama was in office. In fact, the Sandy Hook shooting brought Obama to tears on multiple occasions.
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," a visibly emotional Obama said in a Jan. 2016 speech outlining a number of executive orders aimed at closing background check loopholes. He was referencing the killing of children at Sandy Hook. In that same speech, Obama said the frequency with which school shootings were happening had made America "numb" to them.
"We start thinking that this is normal. And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates — despite the fact that there's a general consensus in America about what needs to be done," he said. Many of Obama's attempts to push stricter gun control measures were blocked by the Republican-held Congress in office at the time.
President Trump has also worked to roll back Obama's attempts at tightening gun control measures. In February 2017, Trump revoked an Obama-era rule that required the Social Security Administration to regularly disclose information about people with severe mental illness to the national gun background check system. The rule was an attempt to keep those battling severe mental health issues from being able to obtain a gun.
But Obama isn't the only to member of his administration to have spoken out about Wednesday's school shooting. Former Vice President Joe Biden also issued a call for legislative action. "Congress has a moral obligation to take action and spare more families from this violence," Biden wrote in a tweet published Thursday.
Seventeen people were killed Wednesday when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooting is the 18th school shooting to have happened this year alone, according to the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. At least 65 school shootings are reported to have happened in 2017, Trump's first year in office.