President Trump Reacts To Florida High School Shooting

Feb 15, 2018
Originally published on February 15, 2018 1:14 pm
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This morning, President Trump is preparing to address the nation on yesterday's deadly school shooting in South Florida. Seventeen people were killed. At least a dozen others were injured. A 19-year-old suspect is currently in police custody. He has been booked on 17 counts of premeditated murder. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now in the studios.

So Scott, sum up for us thus far what has been the response from the White House. I mean, they were watching all of this unfold very closely yesterday.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: They were. The - President Trump was on the telephone with Florida Governor Rick Scott yesterday afternoon. His homeland security secretary was also in contact with the governor. They were, of course, offering federal assistance in the investigation of this tragedy. This morning, the president issued a proclamation honoring the victims of the school shooting and also ordering flags to be flown at half-staff over all federal facilities through Monday.

MARTIN: So that's official messaging. The president, though, has also been on Twitter this morning. What has he been saying there?

HORSLEY: That's right. Trump tweeted this morning, quote, "so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior." The president went on to say, "neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem - must always report such instances to authorities again and again." Now, the president does not say what should happen once a report like that is made. It's worth noting, a year ago, President Trump signed a bill making it easier for people who have mental disabilities to buy guns. That was a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Congress that rolled back an Obama-era rule. It was a move that was applauded at the time by the National Rifle Association and criticized at the time by gun safety advocates.

MARTIN: Which is interesting because that is often what Republicans will seize on in tragedies like this when, inevitably, there's a debate about gun control and gun rights. The GOP will often say, well, it's really a mental health issue.

The shooter, in this case, reportedly used at least one AR-15, this assault-style weapon. I mean, where does President Trump stand on guns? What has been his history? What has been his record? And what do his current comments indicate?

HORSLEY: This is a president who had very strong support from the gun lobby during the 2016 election. The NRA spent millions of dollars in support of Donald Trump and in opposition to Hillary Clinton. And President Trump repaid that support last year when he attended the NRA annual convention. He spoke about his efforts and his administration's efforts to shore up the Second Amendment. And he was the first president to attend an NRA convention since Ronald Reagan did so.

MARTIN: Do we know if the president is planning to visit Parkland, Fla., where this all happened - visit with victims, as presidents often do in these situations?

HORSLEY: We haven't seen any official word about such a visit yet. The president was already scheduled to be in central Florida tomorrow - at least there was a tentative plan for that. He was going to be conducting an infrastructure event in the Orlando area and then was planning to continue on to his private club at Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. We have not seen an official word yet from the White House about whether they plan to add a stop in Broward County to pay tribute to the victims of this shooting.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley for us this morning.

Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.