President Trump Plans To Visit Parkland, Fla., After School Shooting

Feb 15, 2018
Originally published on February 15, 2018 11:58 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump is making plans to go to Parkland, Fla., where Wednesday's deadly school shooting happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This morning, the president ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims. He also gave a televised address from the White House where he said the nation is united in grief. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Since the Sandy Hook massacre five years ago, there have been more than 200 school shootings in America. President Trump says no child or teacher should ever be in danger at an American school. He says all Americans are praying for the Florida victims with one heavy heart.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you - whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain.

HORSLEY: Trump thanked the teachers, paramedics and law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting. Then he spoke directly to young people across the country.

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TRUMP: I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you and who will do anything at all to protect you.

HORSLEY: Earlier today, Trump tweeted about the warning signs that the 19-year-old shooting suspect was troubled, and the president says he's committed to tackling what he calls the difficult issue of mental health. The president said nothing at all about gun control. But Florida Governor Rick Scott did go there. Scott, a Republican, says he wants to have a real conversation on the subject with lawmakers in Tallahassee next week.

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RICK SCOTT: How do we make sure that individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun?

HORSLEY: Under a 1960s law, people who've been committed for mental illness or found insane by a court of law are already barred from buying or owning a gun. But the standard is narrow and enforcement uneven. Last year, the Republican Congress rolled back an Obama-era rule that would have added about 75,000 people to the no-gun list. Florida Senator Marco Rubio says there's a danger in making the prohibition too broad.

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MARCO RUBIO: If getting mental health care would deny you the ability, for example, to own guns to go hunting, people would seek to avoid mental health care because of the stigma associated with it.

HORSLEY: House Speaker Paul Ryan also cautioned today against a reflexive move towards gun control, though Ryan didn't close the door entirely.

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PAUL RYAN: This is not the time to jump to some conclusion not knowing the full facts. We've got a lot more information we need to know. But if someone who is mentally ill is slipping through the cracks and getting a gun - because we have a system to prevent people who aren't supposed to get guns from getting guns. And if there are gaps there, then we need to look at those gaps.

HORSLEY: Several states have enacted laws to temporarily keep guns away from people who are judged to be dangerous, but action at the federal level appears unlikely. Trump was elected with strong backing from the National Rifle Association, and at the group's annual convention last year he promised to guard against any encroachment on Second Amendment rights.

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TRUMP: You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.

HORSLEY: Every high-profile shooting, though, brings a renewed call to at least discuss gun safety legislation. School Superintendent Robert Runcie says he's hearing that from the students in Broward County who survived yesterday's shooting.

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ROBERT RUNCIE: Now is the time for a real conversation on sensible gun control laws in this country. Our students are asking for that conversation, and I hope we can get it done in this generation. But if we don't, they will.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.