President Trump on Thursday addressed the school shooting massacre in Florida by calling it a scene of “violence, hatred, and evil” and vowing to work to address mental health issues behind such tragedies.
“No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school,” he said. “No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning.”
During remarks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Trump said: “We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged with multiple counts of premeditated murder after authorities said he went on a shooting spree Wednesday afternoon and killed 17 faculty and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz is a former student of the school, police said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking before a gathering of sheriffs in Washington on Thursday, said he has directed his office of legal policy to work with cabinet agencies to “study the intersection of mental health and criminality and identify how we can stop people capable of such heinous crimes.”
“We must confront this problem,” Sessions said.
Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted there were so “many signs” the Florida suspect was “mentally disturbed” – suggesting more could have been done to report him to authorities.
“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. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” Trump tweeted.
The flag was lowered to half-staff at the White House in honor of the victims.
Cruz was taken into custody “without incident” Wednesday by Coconut Creek police in a Coral Springs neighborhood, located just a few miles from the high school itself. He allegedly had an AR-15 rifle and “countless magazines.”
The school massacre immediately touched off another debate in Washington over whether gun control measures could have prevented the slaughter and should be considered anew in Congress.
Republican lawmakers are likely to push back on such calls, as they have after past shootings, focusing – as Trump did in Thursday’s tweet – on issues like mental illness.
The president tweeted on Wednesday that he had spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and was working with law enforcement.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” he tweeted.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a prominent gun control advocate, tweeted, “Another mass shooting. Reportedly another AR-15. My bill to ban assault weapons is ready for a vote. How long will we accept weapons of war being used to slaughter our children.”
Full details of Cruz’s mental condition are not publicly known. Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN he was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but hadn’t been there for more than a year.
Meanwhile, while Trump suggested the suspect should have been reported, police reportedly had been to his house before for various complaints.
Cruz had been expelled from the high school for “disciplinary reasons,” and math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that before Wednesday’s fatal shooting, Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat.
Fox News’ Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.