President Donald Trump pledged to visit the families of victims, Florida Gov. Rick Scott promised a “real conversation” about school safety and mental health and Democrats renewed calls for gun control in the aftermath of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.
Trump, who was already planning to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Friday through Monday, said in a Thursday address to the nation that he is “making plans to visit Parkland to meet with families and local officials, and to continue coordinating the federal response.”
The White House did not immediately offer details on the timing of a presidential visit to this community in northern Broward County, about 40 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago.
Trump said the 3,000-student high school became “the scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil.”
Trump, who made no mention of gun-law changes in his 5-minute address, said his administration is “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. Later this month, I will be meeting with the nation’s governors and attorney generals, where making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.”
Scott also emphasized school safety and mental health, rather than the gun restrictions advocated by Democrats, during a morning news conference near the school.
“We want to make sure this never happens again,” said Scott, who appeared with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and Robert Lasky, the agent in charge of the FBI Miami office.
“We’re going to have a real conversation about two things,” Scott said. “How do we make sure when a parent is ready to send their child to school that in Florida that parent knows their child is going to be safe? Number two, how do we make sure individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun?”
Scott was asked later if gun control measures would be part of the “real conversation” he is promising.
“If somebody’s mentally ill, they should not have access to a gun,” Scott said.
On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson also called for a “conversation” after Wednesday’s massacre and said gun control must be part of it.
“Let’s have a conversation about this right now. Not just about mental illness, and that’s part of it. Not just about protection in our schools, and that’s part of it. Let’s get to the root cause. Let’s come together and help end this violence. Let’s talk about that 19-year-old carrying an AR-15. Let’s do what needs to be done and let’s get these assault weapons off our streets. Let’s accomplish something on background checks,” Nelson said.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, whose district includes Douglas High, has long been a gun-control advocate but conceded “there’s not one (single) step that we could take to prevent mass shootings. If there were, I’m pretty confident we would have generated support for that.”
Deutch called for a wide-ranging, bipartisan discussion.
“It’s hard. Everyone has different ideas. But instead of going into camps and yelling about why things aren’t getting done, we need to sit around a table and put everything on it,” Deutch said. That includes mental health, school counselors and how to respond to warning signs on social media, he said. “But we also have to have conversations about guns.”
Staff writer Christine Stapleton contributed to this story.