A gunman using a semiautomatic rifle killed at least 17 people in a Florida high school yesterday, wounding 14 others, five of whom suffering life-threatening injuries. Though modern presidents often offer words of consolation in response to deadly tragedies of this scale, Donald Trump has said very little since the school massacre took place.
He did, however, publish a tweet this morning.
"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!"
First, part of the problem with this is the subtext: the president's message gives the impression that the suspected gunman's "neighbors and classmates" should have done more to prevent yesterday's violence. In case the reality of this dynamic isn't already obvious, let's make it plain: the Parkland shooting wasn't their fault.
Second, let's say we take Trump's rhetoric at face value, and communities report instances of disturbed individuals to authorities "again and again." Then what? Would the Republican White House and its allies in Congress support new restrictions on those individuals' access to firearms? Are they prepared to make significant new investments in a robust mental-health network?
What is it, exactly, the president believes should happen after Americans go to authorities "again and again"?
Third, Trump may have forgotten this, but one of the first measures he signed after taking office expanded gun access for the mentally impaired. It passed the Republican-led Congress on Feb. 15, 2017 -- exactly one year ago today -- and received the president's signature soon after.
There's nothing to suggest that the accused gunman from yesterday's mass murder took advantage of this policy, but it does put Trump's response to the gun violence in a disjointed light: confronted with a brutal mass murder, the president turned his attention to mental health a year after he made it easier for the mentally impaired to buy firearms.
Over the course of his brief tenure in politics, Trump has faced a series of leadership tests. Alas, the amateur president keeps coming up far short.