Spotlight: Trump stresses safer schools, mental health as Florida shooting sparks debates over gun control

Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-16 05:11:07|Editor: Chengcheng
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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in a national address regarding the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 15, 2018. Donald Trump said here on Thursday that he is making plan to visit shooting scene in Parkland, Florida. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump stressed Thursday making schools more secured and tackling mental health in the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school with 17 fatalities, as it has sparked debates on gun control in the country long plagued by gun violence.


"No student, no teacher should be in danger in an American school," Trump said during a national address from the White House. "No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning."

The president said he planned to visit the shooting scene in Parkland, Florida, which is now "in shock, in pain", to meet with families and local officials and to continue coordinating the federal response.

"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," Trump said.

"It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference," he noted. "We must actually make that difference."

The shooting took place around 2:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) Wednesday when students were being dismissed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the city of Parkland in Broward County, just north of Miami on the state's southeastern tip.

It was the 18th school shooting in the country this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Besides the 17 killings, at least 14 people were badly wounded in the incident.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said Thursday that he will discuss with state leaders ways to make sure that parents know their children will be safe at school.


The suspected gunman, captured shortly after the shooting, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old student at the school who was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Cruz was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and multiple ammunition magazines, police said. He fired shots outside a school building and then followed others running back inside it, where people who had heard the shots were taking shelters.

Tyra Hemans, a 12th grade student who was inside the building, told Xinhua that she couldn't believe it when hearing the gun shots but immediately ran for covers.

The gunman reportedly targeted those huddled in classrooms and then tried to leave the scene with a group of evacuating students, but was unsuccessful in the attempt.

Hemans said the she knew some of the victims, including the assistant football coach Aaron Feis who threw himself in front of students in order to shield them from being shot. She came back to the school Thursday noon along with others.

Feis "selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot," the school's football program tweeted. "He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories."

Borward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that an armed resource deputy was at the school's campus, but that deputy never encountered Cruz.

Cruz appeared in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing, faced with 17 counts of premeditated murder.


During his remarks on Thursday, Trump talked about tackling the "difficult issue of mental health" but did not mention the prevalence of guns or gun violence.

In an earlier tweet, Trump said that "so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior."

"Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem," the president continued. "Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again."

Speaking at a press conference held in Parkland Thursday, FBI agent Rob Lasky said the agency investigated a YouTube comment published in 2017 under the name of "Nikolas Cruz" that claimed "I'm going to be a professional school shooter" on the site.

But the FBI couldn't identify the person making the comment.

Survivors and local residents were questioning loose gun control laws in Florida and why those who have mental illness could pass background checks and get their hands on guns.

Broward County schools superintendent Rob Runcie, for his part, urged "a real conversation on sensible gun control laws" in the country.

Former President Barack Obama also waded into the debate. He called for "long-overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want."

But House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that it is not yet time for political battles on guns, by warning against jumping to some conclusion not knowing the full facts.

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