In a nationally-televised speech on Thursday, President Donald Trump said that he will visit Parkland, Florida, where a shooter committed a mass murder at a local school on Wednesday. The alleged shooter has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who is now facing 17 charges of premeditated murder. Earlier in the day, the president tweeted, "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," and added, "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

The president has commented on mass shootings in the past, pointing out the mental health issues involved. After the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Trump said that the incident "isn't a guns situation" but instead "a mental health problem at the highest level."

In an interview on CNN, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky responded to the president’s tweet when it was read to her on-air during a live interview. Hunschofsky said, "If a solution was simple for these things, we would have found one already."

Trump said in his speech that “our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families."

Offering condolences, the president said at the White House:

  • “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. We are all joined together as one American family and your suffering is our burden also. No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them good-bye in the morning. Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had full live ahead of them, a life full of wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Fox News Channel’s "Fox and Friends" on Thursday that the suspect is a "deeply disturbed person" and "someone that people knew was a danger." Rubio added, "You know, someone that in the school there was this running joke, it’s not a joke anymore obviously, but a running joke that he was gonna come back one day and hurt a lot of people."

Also commenting was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who told a group of visiting sheriffs in Washington, D.C. on Thursday that "it cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening." "It is too often the case that the perpetrators of these terrible attacks had given of signals in advance," Sessions said. "Perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening immediately. I suspect we’ve seen that again in this case...we cannot arrest everybody that somebody thinks is dangerous."

Nikolas Cruz had recently been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons and was enrolled at another school in Broward County. He is believed to have been armed with a legally-purchased AR-15-style rifle and multiple magazines, according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. 

Here follows the president’s speech in full:

My fellow Americans, today I speak to a nation in grief.

Yesterday, a school filled with innocent children and caring teachers became the scene of terrible violence, hatred, and evil. Around 2:30 yesterday afternoon, police responded to reports of gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, a great and safe community.

There, a shooter, who is now in custody, opened fire on defenseless students and teachers. He murdered 17 people and badly wounded at least 14 others. Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families.

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. We are all joined together as one American family and your suffering is our burden also. No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them good-bye in the morning. Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had full live ahead of them, a life full of wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise.

Each had dreams to pursue, love to give and talents to share with the world. And each one had a family to whom they meant everything in the world.

Today we mourn for all of those who lost their lives. We comfort the grieving and the wounded. And we hurt for the entire community of Parkland, Florida that is now in shock and pain and searching for answers.

To law enforcement, first responders, and teachers who responded so bravely in the face of danger, we thank you for your courage.

Soon after the shooting, I spoke with Governor Scott to convey our deepest sympathies to the people of Florida and our determination to assist in any way that we can. I also spoke with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

I’m making plans to visit Parkland, to meet with families and local officials and to continue coordinating the federal response. In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold on to God’s word in Scripture: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears, I will heal you.”

We trust in that promise and we hold fast to our fellow Americans at their time of sorrow. I want to speak now directly to America’s children, especially those who feel lost, alone, confused or even scared.

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. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer, or a faith leader. Answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness. We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life that creates deep and meaningful human connections and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.

Our administration is working closely with local authorities to investigate the shooting and learn everything we can. We are 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 attorneys general 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.

In times of tragedy, the bonds that sustain us are those of family, faith, community and country. These bonds are stronger than the forces of hatred and evil and these bonds grow even stronger in the hours of our greatest need. And so always, but especially today, let us hold our loved ones close, let us pray for healing and for peace, and let us come together as one nation to wipe away the tears and strive for a much better tomorrow.

Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you very much.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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