On Thursday, Donald Trump met privately with more than two dozen people affected by the Santa Fe High School shooting, the Associated Press reports.
In a conversation with the families that lasted more than an hour, Trump spoke with survivors about mental health and school safety. Unsurprisingly, the reactions to the meeting were mixed. One parent wrote that Trump “showed sincerity [and] compassion,” while another compared her conversation with the President to speaking to a “toddler.”
Rhonda Hart, the mother of 14-year-old Santa Fe victim Kimberly Vaughan, told the AP that Trump used the word “wacky” to describe the shooter, as well as the trenchcoat he reportedly wore. Hart told Trump that she would like to see expanded access to mental healthcare and suggested that schools employ veterans like herself as “sentinels.” The AP reports:
She said Trump responded, “And arm them?” She replied, “No,” but said Trump “kept mentioning” arming classroom teachers. “It was like talking to a toddler,” Hart said.
According to People, Trump’s response to Hart’s suggestion that “mental illness needs to be addressed,” wasn’t exactly articulate. She told the magazine that he “didn’t say anything.” “He was just like ‘Uhhh....’” Hart told People.
The exchange doesn’t come as much of a surprise, rather the Trump-like brew of shifting gun policy and the near complete absence of minimal human empathy. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, Trump joined the NRA and proposed arming teachers and other school staff.
And Trump too seems swayed by the narrative that school shootings aren’t reflective of systemic violence, but rather the work of one “wacky” individual. In the wake of the Sutherland Spring shooting that left 26 dead, Trump emphasized the “deranged” individual, further pressing the myth of the solitary man acting without external influence or largely unfettered access to deadly weapons.
In Texas, Trump has found more support for that point of view. Shortly after the shooting, Governor Greg Abbott rolled out a school safety plan that included arming teachers. He reassured supporters, saying “I will never allow second amendment rights to be infringed.” Short of addressing the methods of violence, Trump’s rhetoric on “wacky” and “deranged” shooters is all that’s left.