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Federal, state leaders pitch mental health awareness, ‘school hardening’ in wake of Parkland massacre

Less than 24 hours after Nicolas Cruz killed 17 people at the high school that expelled him in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in, as did Gov. Rick Scott and state leaders.

State leaders vowed to devote resources to “school hardening” and ensuring that mentally ill people don’t have access to guns. The President vowed a renewed focus on mental health and school safety.

Trump, who tweeted on Thursday morning that there needs to be more robust reporting of people who show warning signs to authorities, addressed media from the White House.

“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.”

“Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the students and their families,” the President said. “We are all joined together as one American family.”

“No child, no teacher should ever have to be in fear in an American school,” Trump added, vowing to visit Parkland, and urging Americans to cling to faith in times of sorrow.

Trump said he was “making plans to visit Parkland to meet with families and local officials and continue coordinating the federal response.”

Trump, addressing America’s “children,” said “you are never alone and never will be.”

Trump suggested that children turn to teachers and faith leaders in times of trouble, and vowed to address the issue of “mental health” and “making our schools safer.”

“We’re making our schools and our children top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we’re making a difference. We must actually make that difference,” the President said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed sheriffs in Washington, and Parkland was on his mind.

“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening,” Sessions said.

“We’ve got to confront the problem, there’s no doubt about it … We at the Department of Justice are going to make this a priority,” Sessions added.

“I think effective enforcement of our gun laws, focusing on criminals and dangerous people, mentally ill people where we have the legal ability to do so, can reduce violence in our communities,” Sessions said. “It’s not good if we’ve got gun laws that say criminals can’t carry guns that never get enforced.”

In between the speeches by the President and the Attorney General, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel promised to be very “animated” in discussing the way forward after this mass shooting, which includes adding police officers.

That way forward will include state laws preventing the mentally ill from buying guns, such as Cruz’s AR-15 that he used to kill 17 people.

Gov. Rick Scott vowed to “make sure this never happens again,” asserting that there would be a “real conversation with state leaders” about “making sure that people with mental illness never touch a gun.”

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are on board, Scott said.

“The violence has to stop. We can never lose another child in this country to violence in a school,” Scott said.

When asked about gun control, Scott reiterated his contention that “someone who’s mentally ill shouldn’t have access to a gun.”

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, during the press conference, issued a statement advocating $100 million for “school hardening.”

“I am asking all of my legislative colleagues to support an appropriation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training, as well as the hardening of our or schools in the K-12 budget, which Senator [Kathleen] Passidomo has already included in the Senate education budget. It is imperative that a portion of this allocation goes toward ensuring that we have the necessary number of armed resource officers at our schools across Florida. While currently, we have armed resource officers at a number of our schools coupled with other law enforcement personnel, we must identify where the gaps exist and immediately work to fill them,” Galvano asserted.

The Guardian notes that there have already been eight mass shootings at schools in 2018 that have resulted in injury or death.

Attorney General Pam Bondi vowed to continue to help the victims and families, including by compensating them for hospital bills and funeral expenses.

“You have nothing to worry about there,” Bondi said, going on to laud the “teamwork” between herself and Gov. Scott in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting.

“We’re praying for these families. We will continue to pray for these families, and that justice is done for the one that brutally, brutally murdered all of these students.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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