Trump’s Florida Shooting Speech Vs. Obama’s Many, Many Responses To Gun Violence

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Following speculation that he would not publicly address Wednesday's shooting in Florida, Trump delivered public remarks on Thursday morning in which he discussed the federal response to the school shooting. During his speech, Trump attempted to reassure American children that they were safe, thanked law enforcement, first responders, and teachers who responded to the shooting, and promised to meet with state and local leaders in the shooting's aftermath. But comparing Trump's speech to Obama's post-shooting speeches reveals a stark contrast between the two presidents.

According to Mashable, Barack Obama delivered 18 statements in response to mass shootings in the United States, 13 of which were public addresses. There were several recurrent themes throughout these speeches, like calls for improved background checks and gun control measures, whereas Trump's speech on Thursday focused on prayers for "healing and for peace" as well as a brief call to tackle mental health. He did not mention gun violence even once. Obama, on the other hand, frequently called for civil rights, safety in places of worship, unity, and, in later years, an end to gun violence.

Below, we'll take a look at how Trump's speech compared to each one of the 13 public speeches Obama delivered after mass shootings.

When A Soldier Killed 13 People At A Military Base In Fort Hood (November 2009)

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What Obama said then:

We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident and I want all of you to know that as commander in chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they're at home is provided for.

How Trump's speech compares:

Like Obama, Trump promised during his speech to work closely "with local authorities to investigate the shooting and learn everything we can." And like Obama, Trump gave a brief list of the relevant authorities with whom he was in talks. Obama mentioned the Pentagon, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, while Trump mentioned Florida's governor and attorney general, as well as the Broward County Sheriff.

Neither speech mentioned guns or gun violence, but both speeches called for prayers.

When A Gunman Shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords And Others (January 2011)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other. So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers. Those who have been injured, we are rooting for them. And I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she’s going to pull through.

How Trump's speech compares:

Both presidents used their speeches to indicate that they had offered any necessary resources to Arizona and Florida's respective governors. Both speeches indicated that the federal government would investigate the shootings, but unlike Trump's speech on Wednesday, Obama cited multiple specific shooting victims — including a federal judge and a young girl.

Obama again called for "thoughts and prayers" in this speech, and once again, neither speech mentioned guns.

When A Gunman Killed 12 People In A Movie Theater In Colorado (July 2012)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

Such violence, such evil is senseless. It's beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

How Trump's speech compares:

Trump's speech on Thursday was particularly similar to this speech from Obama back in 2012. "No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning," Trump said. "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."

Both presidents expressed the potential of those who had been murdered, and urged Americans to come together and hold their loved ones close. Notably, Obama remarked in his speech that "there are going to be other days for politics," and Trump didn't mention politics at all, other than his comment about addressing mental health with state and local leaders.

When A Gunman Killed Six People At A Sikh Gurdwara In Wisconsin (August 2012)

What Obama said then:

As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

How Trump's speech compares:

In his two statements following the Oak Creek massacre, Obama specifically denounced racially motivated shootings, and insisted that "we are all one people."

The motivation for the school shooting in Parkland is still unknown, but Trump expressed a similar sentiment of unity. "We are all joined together as one American family and your suffering is our burden also," Trump said to the people of Parkland.

When A Shooter Killed 26 People At Sandy Hook Elementary School (December 2012)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama's speech following Sandy Hook marked a turning point in his response to gun violence. Although he did not specifically mention guns, he was emotional in his speech and specifically referenced other mass shootings in his speech.

Like Obama, Trump called for action, saying, "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 was not specific about what that action should be. However, both presidents talked about the lives the students who were killed would have lived, and both referenced scripture.

"I have heard your prayers and seen your tears," Trump said in his speech, quoting scripture. "I will heal you." Obama, meanwhile, concluded his Sandy Hook speech by saying: "In the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds."

When A Contractor Killed 12 People At The Washington Navy Yard (September 2013)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

I do not accept that we cannot find a common-sense way to preserve our traditions, including our basic Second Amendment freedoms and the rights of law-abiding gun owners, while at the same time reducing the gun violence that unleashes so much mayhem on a regular basis.

Our tears are not enough. Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work, and go to school, and walk our streets free from senseless violence, without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have to change. We're going to have to change.

How Trump's speech compares:

This was the first mass shooting that Obama publicly addressed following Sandy Hook, and the evolution in his responses was blatant. Obama made no effort to hide his frustration with gun violence, and urged Americans not to normalize mass shootings.

This is also where Trump's speech starts to drastically differ from Obama's responses to shootings. Trump did not mention guns in his speech even once, and though he argued that "it is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference," he did not clarify what making a difference would look like.

When An Army Specialist Shot Fellow Troops At Fort Hood (April 2014)

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What Obama said then:

Any shooting is troubling. Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago. We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make. Obviously our thoughts and prayers were — are with the entire community. And we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the community at Fort Hood has what it needs to deal with the current situation, but also any potential aftermath.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama did not specifically discuss gun violence in this brief statement, given that it occurred on a military base, but it was clear that he was troubled by a shooting taking place in the same place where one had already occurred just five years earlier.

The sentiments expressed in this speech and in Trump's speech on Parkland are not so different; like Obama, Trump also attempted to reassure Americans that the federal government was doing everything possible "to investigate the shooting and learn everything we can."

When A White Supremacist Killed Three People At Jewish Community Centers In Kansas (April 2014)

Associated Press on YouTube

What Obama said then:

As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society. And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God. We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama delivered this statement during an Easter prayer breakfast, and it was consequently one of the more religious statements he delivered during his presidency. As with the Oak Creek gurdwara massacre, Obama used this statement to denounce religious violence.

Although Trump's speech about the Parkland shooting was in a different situation, it is worth pointing out that Trump and Obama have had significantly different responses to white supremacists. While Obama used this speech to openly condemn anti-Semitism, Trump came under fire last year after attributing violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville to "many sides."

When A White Supremacist Killed Nine Black Churchgoers In South Carolina (June 2015)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama's speech on Charleston could not be more different from Trump's speech on Parkland. In addition to denouncing the racist hate crime that was the Charleston church shooting, Obama delivered one of his strongest statements denouncing gun violence. This marked a shift from Obama's first-term speeches following mass shootings. Although he previously said that politics could be saved for another day, Obama used his speech about Charleston to argue that "it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge" politics.

Trump told the Parkland community in his speech that "we are here for you whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain," but did not respond to the multiple students and teachers at the school who demanded action on gun violence. And unlike Obama, Trump did not cite previous instances of gun violence in the United States, even though the deadly Las Vegas shooting took place during his presidency.

When A Gunman Killed Four Marines In Tennessee (July 2015)

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What Obama said then:

We take all shootings very seriously. Obviously, when you have an attack on a U.S. military facility, then we have to make sure that we have all the information necessary to make an assessment in terms of how this attack took place, and what further precautions we can take in the future.

How Trump's speech compares:

As was the case following the Fort Hood shootings, Obama did not address gun violence in this statement because it addressed an attack on a U.S. military facility.

Trump and Obama both indicated in their speeches that they were working with the relevant authorities to investigate the shootings in question, and asked Americans to pray for the families of shooting victims.

When A Gunman Killed Nine People At A Community College In Oregon (October 2015)

The Obama White House on YouTube

What Obama said then:

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama did not mince any words in his speech after the Oregon shooting. He opened his speech by saying that "there's been another mass shooting in America," and dedicated the rest of his statement to a firm denunciation of gun violence.

Whereas Trump aimed for a message of unity by urging Americans to "answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness," Obama made no attempt to hide his anger and frustration. He did not make vague calls for unity, and instead of once again making a general call for "thoughts and prayers," he said he hoped that he wouldn't have to continue offering condolences in similar circumstances.

Trump made virtually no mention of politics or gun control legislation in his speech, but a post-Oregon Obama would describe this as desensitization. He said in his speech that he would be criticized for "politicizing" the shooting, but he said that was a necessary choice to make.

When A Couple Killed 14 People At A Local Department Of Public Health Office (December 2015)

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What Obama said then:

I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.

How Trump's speech compares:

Obama spent the majority of his speech following the San Bernardino shooting detailing counterterrorism measures, though he cautioned against turning against one another and creating "a war between America and Islam." However, he still made sure to address gun violence, and made a very specific call to prevent people on no-fly lists from being able to purchase guns. It is worth noting, however, that Obama was criticized for this particular suggestion given the potentially discriminatory nature of no-fly lists.

During his speech, Trump requested that Americans "work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life that creates deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors." However, he did not suggest any particular legislation that would make such a culture a reality.

When A Gunman Killed 49 People At The LGBTQ Pulse Nightclub In Florida (June 2016)

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What Obama said then:

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

How Trump's speech compares:

The Pulse nightclub shooting was the last time Obama delivered a major public address in response to a mass shooting. In addition to condemning violence against queer and trans people, Obama reminded the country just how easy it is for people to get their hands on a weapon.

The shooting at the Pulse nightclub, like the shooting at the high school in Parkland, was in Florida, a state with lax gun laws that risk becoming even less strict as Trump and his fellow Republicans roll back Obama-era gun legislation. The difference in the two presidents' responses to these shootings, therefore, is particularly important to assess.

Throughout his presidency, Obama had to respond to almost 20 mass shootings. Although he spent many of his first-term speeches calling for "thoughts and prayers," he stopped feigning any amount of patience after the Sandy Hook shooting. It was at that moment that Obama stopped having any qualms about politicizing mass shootings, and most of his responses to shootings after that contained firm denunciations of gun violence.

But Trump has not had such a turning point yet, and people aren't sure if he is going to — if shootings at a Las Vegas music festival, at a Texas church, and at a Florida school are not enough to get Trump to talk about gun violence, then we might find that he and Obama evolve very differently on the subject.