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Florida school survivors slam Trump over tweets

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | February 19, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Mourners hug near a makeshift memorial created by community members outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. A gunman entered the school last Wednesday and killed 17 students and teachers. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)

PARKLAND, Fla. -- Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive.

"You're the president. You're supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us," said David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press.

"How dare you," he added.

"We've seen a government shutdown, we've seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children's lives," said Hogg. "Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me."

Hogg was responding to Trump's tweet Saturday that Democrats hadn't passed any gun-control measures during the brief time they controlled Congress with a supermajority in the Senate. Trump alluded in another tweet to the FBI's failure to act on tips that the suspect was dangerous, while bemoaning the bureau's focus on Russia's role in the 2016 election.

Trump lashed out at the FBI Saturday night, saying the agency "missed all of the many signals" sent by the suspect in the Florida school shooting.

Trump said: "This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"

Trump was at his Florida estate Sunday but did not mention the attack that day in a series of tweets. After more than a day of criticism from the students, the White House said the president would hold a "listening session" with unspecified students on Wednesday and meet with state and local security officials Thursday.

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One person who spoke to Trump over the weekend said the president had closely watched the students' television appearances and talked about the issue with guests at his Mar-a-Lago Club. "He knows he has to do something," said another person who has spoken with Trump about the issue, who said the president seemed open to stricter gun control but had not decided what it would look like.

Michael Udine, a commissioner in Broward County, said he told the president Saturday afternoon that the students "are extremely motivated and well spoken and they are going to be demanding change in Washington and Tallahassee... . The president said, 'Well, I would welcome that.'"

Udine said Trump was thoughtful on the call and repeatedly expressed his condolences.

"Any politician who is coming to just talk or just to give their thoughts and prayers, that's not needed," Udine said. "Thoughts and prayers are not good enough anymore."

The students have vowed to become the face of a movement for tighter firearm regulations and plan to visit the state Capitol in Tallahassee this week to demand immediate action. They are also calling for anti-gun-violence demonstrations in Washington and other cities on March 24.

"We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around," junior Cameron Kasky said on CNN's State of the Union.

"This is about us begging for our lives, this isn't about the GOP, this isn't about the Democrats, this is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral," said Kasky.

Emma Gonzalez, another student who survived the attack, cited Trump by name in a warning to politicians who are supported by the National Rifle Association.

"Now is the time to get on the right side of this, because this is not something that we are going to let sweep under the carpet," she said on Meet the Press.

The students made clear they are going to target lawmakers up for election this year who they view as standing against their cause.

"There's barely any time for them to save their skins," Gonzalez said on Face the Nation on CBS, "and if they don't turn around right now and state their open support for this movement, they're going to be left behind because you're either with us or you're against us at this point."


While the student activists repeatedly expressed optimism and hope for constructive conversations and changes to U.S. gun laws, the politicians who appeared on Sunday's shows expressed great skepticism.

Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., told CBS he doubted anything will happen until voters force changes.

"I am not optimistic that until there is real action by the American public to demand change in Congress that we're going to see real action to confront gun violence out of this Congress," he said.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said the issue raised by the Florida shooting is that the FBI could have prevented the shooting, and added he thought Congress "will get something done this year" on the gun background check system.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said the students "are absolutely right when they say that politicians have not been responding to any of this," and blamed congressional dysfunction.

Kasich, speaking on CNN, said gun rights advocates should consider "common-sense" regulations. He said he doubted Congress would take any actions, but that he held out hope that state and local legislatures might.

Florida politicians, meanwhile, scrambled to produce legislation in response to the Wednesday attack that killed 17 people. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, is being held without bail in the Broward County jail, accused of 17 counts of first-degree murder.

In a TV interview, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio embraced a Democratic bill in the Florida legislature to allow courts to temporarily prevent people from having guns if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.


School and government records obtained Sunday show Cruz was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at age 3 and had disciplinary issues dating to middle school. In February 2014, while in eighth grade, Cruz was transferred to a special school for children with emotional and behavioral issues. He stayed there until 10th grade, when he was transferred to Stoneman Douglas. A month after arriving, Cruz was written up for using profanity. Last year, Cruz was expelled.

On Sept. 28, 2016, an investigator from the Florida Department of Children and Families visited Cruz and his mother, Lynda Cruz, after he posted video on Snapchat showing him cutting himself. The report showed that Cruz had written a racial epithet against blacks and a Nazi symbol on his book bag, which his mother had forced him to erase. The investigator said Cruz was suffering from depression and on medication and had told Lynda Cruz he planned to buy a gun, but she couldn't determine why.

She said he had been depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend who had been cheating on him, the investigator said. A school counselor told the investigator that Lynda Cruz had always tried to help her son and followed through on his therapy and medication, but the counselor was concerned about the youth's desire to buy a gun.

A crisis counselor told the department investigator he had visited the school and that he did not believe Cruz was a danger to himself or others. The case was closed, with the investigator concluding that Cruz was receiving help from his mother and counselors, and "no other referrals or services were needed."

After Lynda Cruz died in November, Cruz moved into the home of a teenage friend. The friend's parents told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper they had no idea the extent of Cruz's issues.

"We had this monster living under our roof and we didn't know," Kimberly Snead told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday. "We didn't see this side of him."

James Snead added: "Everything everybody seems to know, we didn't know. It's as simple as that."

Cruz kept the AR-15 he allegedly used in the massacre locked in a gun safe with a few other firearms. James Snead thought he had the only key to the cabinet but says Cruz must have had another key.

Information for this article was contributed by Jason Dearen, Terry Spencer, Allen G. Breed, Gary Fineout, Tamara Lush, Nicholas Riccardi and Catherine Lucey of The Associated Press; and by Devlin Barrett, Tory Newmyer, Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Wesley Lowry of The Washington Post.

A Section on 02/19/2018

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