President Donald Trump’s initial responses to the news of a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, weren’t inspiring — and seemed to suggest he put part of the blame for the loss of life on the victims themselves.
Trump tweeted out his prayers and condolences to those who suffered loss on Wednesday.
“No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” he wrote.
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2018
On Thursday morning, however, Trump took a different tone about the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and claimed 17 lives.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” he said. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
The words from Trump seemed to suggest that the individuals surrounding the shooter (Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student of the school) bore more responsibility than the shooter himself.
Trump's finger-pointing is in terrible taste.
Trump failed to mention the ease with which the shooter was able to purchase an AR-15 rifle — in Florida, it’s actually easier to buy the assault weapon than it is to get a handgun. In that sense, the shooter’s rampage isn’t just the fault of the attacker himself; there is also an argument to be made that institutional rules, far too lax to prevent individuals like Cruz from making a rifle purchase, can also be blamed.
Trump doesn’t seem to want to make that argument or even entertain it. In his prepared remarks from the White House on Thursday morning, he didn’t even utter the word “gun” while discussing updates on the tragedy.
Real leaders don’t hide from the obvious questions people have when incidents like this unfold. Trump demonstrates, however, that he’s a coward, choosing to kowtow to the interests of the gun lobby and others who want to put the blame on anyone but themselves.