Trump’s School Shooting Speech Focuses On Mental Health, Grief, & Not Guns

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Speaking from the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump addressed the Florida school shooting, in which 17 people were killed, and said his administration was committed to helping secure the nation's school. Earlier in the day, Trump said it appeared the suspect was "mentally disturbed" and urged people to "always" report "such instances" to authorities in a tweet that appeared to suggest the shooting might have been avoided if the shooter's mental health had been reported. The president also issued a proclamation Thursday honoring those killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference, we must actually make that difference," President Trump said Thursday. "In times of tragedy, the bonds that sustain us are those of family, faith, community, and country. These bonds are stronger than the forces of hatred and evil, and these bonds grow even stronger in the hours of our greatest need."

Although Thursday's speech was the first time Trump had formally addressed the nation regarding Wednesday's fatal school shooting, it was not the first time the president had commented on the tragic incident. A few hours before he addressed the nation Thursday, Trump tweeted that there were "so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed." Trump said the 19-year-old had been "expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior" and was known to be "a big problem." The president then said people must report "such instances" to authorities "again and again."

President Trump also tweeted his condolences Wednesday as the shooting in Parkland unfolded. "My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting," the president tweeted. "No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," a statement he reiterated in his speech Thursday.

Trump later announced he had spoken to Florida Gov. Rick Scott about the situation. "Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting." The White House said Trump had offered Scott federal assistance.

But not everyone appears to have been satisfied with the president's initial reaction to the Florida school shooting. "I don't want your condolences ... my friends and teachers were shot," a Twitter user who identified herself as a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School wrote in a reply to President Trump's condolences tweet. "Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won't fix this. But Gun [sic] control will prevent it from happening again."

Critics also questioned the president's sincerity and lack of action when it comes to combating mass school shootings, pointing to the unprecedented level of financial support Trump has received from the National Rifle Association. In the 2016 presidential campaign, the NRA spent at least $30 million supporting Trump and attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the group's own disclosure.

Moreover, Trump's address regarding Wednesday's fatal school shooting appears to have come at a delay when compared to remarks made by past presidents. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, for example, all addressed the nation about mass school shootings on the same day the incident occurred, according to USA Today.

According to the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the 18th school shooting to have happened this year alone. Since 2013, the country has seen nearly 300 school shootings, which averages to roughly one per week.

Although Trump did not speak Thursday of specific actions aimed at curbing school shootings, he once again offered his condolences and support to the Parkland school shooting victims. "We are here for you, whatever you need," Trump said. "Whatever we can do to ease your pain."