President Trump limited his immediate public response to the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history to a pair of messages posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,” Trump first tweeted. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Moments later, the president sent out a second message to his 47.8 million followers. “Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting,” the president wrote.
The White House canceled a planned briefing, and press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement.
Late Thursday morning, Trump spoke about the tragedy in a brief televised address from the White House, saying that “no child, no teacher, should be in danger in an American school.” He said he would visit Parkland, Fla., where 17 people, most of them students, were killed and more than a dozen injured, to meet with families and local officials, and would work with governors “to tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
“Let us pray for healing and peace and let us come together as one nation to wipe away the tears and strive for a much better tomorrow,” Trump said.
He did not mention guns in his remarks. The shooter used an AR-15 assault-style rifle and had multiple magazines, according to law enforcement officials.
The grim numbers from Parkland meant that it ranked as one of the deadliest school shootings on American soil, behind only the massacres at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary. For some, the extent of the death toll — and Trump’s initial four-sentence public response — made for an easy comparison with the president’s predecessor.
I remember being at the White House on Dec. 14, 2012, the day of Sandy Hook. Obama went into the briefing room that afternoon to address the American people. A different WH approach today. Trump hasn’t spoken on camera, and his staff just called a lid.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) February 14, 2018
On the day of the Sandy Hook murders, Obama delivered powerful remarks in front of the White House press corps that many Democrats hoped would lead to stronger gun control laws.
Trump has resisted strengthening firearm laws in the wake of mass shootings, echoing an argument that the time for discussing legislative solutions to gun violence is not in the immediate moments following such tragedies.
On the Senate floor, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who represents constituents who include the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook, laid out the Democrats’ well-honed response to that idea.
“As a parent, it scares me to death that this body doesn’t take seriously the safety of my children, and it seems like a lot of parents in South Florida are going to be asking that same question later today,” he said. “We pray for the families, for the victims. We hope for the best.”
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