WASHINGTON (AP) — In what has become a familiar ritual of grief, President Donald Trump planned to address the nation Thursday morning about a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school, after focusing on mental health, rather than guns, in his early comments.
The president’s address comes a day after a former student opened fire at the Parkland, Florida, high school with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more. The 19-year-old was charged Thursday morning.
Trump, who did not speak publicly immediately after the shooting, weighed in on Twitter early Thursday, calling the suspect “mentally disturbed” and stressing it was important to “report such instances to authorities, again and again!” He tweeted about the shooting twice on Wednesday, expressing condolences and saying he spoke with Florida’s governor.
The president also issued a proclamation Thursday honoring the victims of the shooting. It says, “Our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones” and orders American flags at public buildings across the country flown at half-staff.
The president has dealt before with offering consolation after horrific violence. In the wake of a Las Vegas shooting in October that killed at least 58 people, Trump spoke from the White House Diplomatic Room, calling it an “act of pure evil,” and seeking to help the nation heal.
In the past, he has largely focused on mental health as a cause for mass shootings, dismissing questions about gun control.
After a shooting at a Texas church left 26 people dead in November, the president also said “mental health” was the problem, adding that “this isn’t a guns situation.” When he visited Las Vegas to mourn with the families of those victims, Trump called the shooter “demented” and a “very sick individual,” though he added that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
The 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media. He had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons,” Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel said.
Mayor Beam Furr said on CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn’t been back to the clinic for more than a year.
Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some gun restrictions, but he has since embraced the Second Amendment. Early in his administration, he told the National Rifle Association he was their “friend and champion.” He also signed a resolution passed by the GOP-led Congress blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
While Trump has offered sober responses to some tragedies since he took office, he has also drawn criticism for more inflammatory reactions to acts of violence.
After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead, he tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London in June, he went after the Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter, suggesting he wasn’t taking the attacks seriously enough.