Pres­i­dent meets with fam­i­lies af­fected by shoot­ing

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Jonathan Lemire

“It­was like talk­ing to a tod­dler.” — Rhonda Hart, whose daugh­ter Kim­berly Vaughan was killed in the Texas shoot­ing, on talk­ing to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump about school safety on Thur­day

HOUS­TON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spent­more than an hour Thurs­day of­fer­ing pri­vate con­do­lences to some of the fam­i­lies af­fected by this month’s deadly Texas school shoot­ing, the lat­est spasm of mass vi­o­lence in a year marred by as­saults on the na­tion’s schools.

While in Texas, Trump’s newly formed school safety com­mis­sion met out­side Wash­ing­ton, part of the pres­i­dent’s cho­sen so­lu­tion to com­bat the ris­ing tide of blood­shed af­ter his brief flir­ta­tion with tougher gun laws went nowhere.

A White House spokesman said Trump was “moved” by the May 18 shoot­ing at Santa Fe High School, which left eight stu­dents and two sub­sti­tute teach­ers dead. A stu­dent faces cap­i­tal mur­der charges in the at­tack.

“These events are very tragic, when­ever they hap­pen. And you know, the pres­i­dent wants to ex­tend his con­do­lences and talk about the is­sue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Chan­nel.

Trump, who at times has awk­wardly em­braced­his role as the na­tional com­forter-in- chief, did not pub­licly share what he told the griev­ing fam­i­lies and lo­cal lead­ers dur­ing a meet­ing at a Coast Guard base out­side Hous­ton. Re­porters were not per­mit­ted to witness the meet­ing, but Pamela Stanich — whose 17-year- old son, Jared Black, was among the eight stu­dents killed — was one of the par­ents who met with Trump, giv­ing him a fam­ily state­ment and her son’s eu­logy.

Trump “met withus pri­vately and showed sin­cer­ity, com­pas­sion, and con­cern on mak­ing our schools safer across the na­tion,” she wrote in a Face­book post. “He spent time talk­ing to the sur­vivors and ask­ing on what hap­pened and what would have­made a dif­fer­ence. Changes are com­ing for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump.”

Rhonda Har t , whose 14-year- old daugh­ter, Kim­berly Vaughan, was killed at the school, also met with Trump.

Hart told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Trump re­peat­edly used the word ‘ wacky’ to de­scribe the shooter and the trench coat he wore.

She said she told Trump, “Maybe if ev­ery­one had ac­cess to men­tal health care, we wouldn’t be in the sit­u­a­tion.”

Hart, an Army veteran, said she also sug­gested em­ploy­ing veter­ans as sen­tinels in schools. 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.

All told, more than two dozen peo­ple af­fected by the shoot­ing joined Trump, ac­cord­ing to the White House. Also Thurs­day, Education Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos, whomTrump put in charge of the school safety com­mis­sion, an­nounced a $1mil­lion grant to the Santa Fe school dis­trict to help with post-shoot­ing re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Repub­li­cans, greeted Trump af­ter Air Force One landed at a Hous­ton mil­i­tary base. Ab­bott joined Trump for the short ride in the pres­i­den­tial limou­sine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meet­ing took place.

Trump then headed to a fundraiser at a lux­ury ho­tel in down­town Hous­ton, the first of his two big- dol­lar events in Texas on Thurs­day. A White House of­fi­cial did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for de­tails about how much money was to be raised, and who was ben­e­fit­ing, from the fundrais­ing events.

Af­ter 17 teach­ers and stu­dents were killed dur­ing a Fe­bru­ary shoot­ing at a high school in Park­land, Florida, Trump said he would work to im­prove school safety, but has not called for new gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion.

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