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Mom of Texas shooting victim says talking with Trump was 'like talking to a toddler'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/2/2018 William Cummings

President Trump spent more than an hour with people who lost family members and the survivors of the May 18 shooting at a Texas high school that left 10 dead and more than a dozen wounded. 

The press was not invited into the meeting, which was held at a Coast Guard base outside Houston. But the reaction to the president's appearance from one the victims' mothers showed that even Trump's effort to act as comforter-in-chief can be polarizing. 

Rhonda Hart, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed in the shooting said Trump repeatedly used the word "wacky" to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore.

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

Hart, who served in the Army, said she also suggested hiring veterans to help watch over schools. 

"And arm them?" Trump asked, according to Hart. 

a couple of people that are talking to each other: Santa Fe High School staff react as they gather in the parking lot of a gas station following a shooting at the school in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018. © JENNIFER REYNOLDS/THE GALVESTON COUNTY DAILY NEWS VIA AP Santa Fe High School staff react as they gather in the parking lot of a gas station following a shooting at the school in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018. "No," she replied. But Trump "kept mentioning" arming classroom teachers.

"It was like talking to a toddler," Hart said.

In contrast, Pamela Stanich — whose 17-year-old son, Jared Black, was among the those killed — presented Trump with a family statement and a copy of her son’s eulogy.

In a Facebook post, Stanich said she was "sick of a--holes bashing our President." 

"He met with us privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation. He hugged us and was gracious with his condolences," Stanich said. "Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump." 

Trump has previously been criticized for appearing unfeeling in times of tragedy, including when he sharply critiqued a mayor in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a deadly hurricane and fought with a Gold Star military family.

But Trump has at times displayed a softer side. On Wednesday, he returned a hug from an 8-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy who attended a White House event where he signed legislation to give patients the right to try experimental treatments.

After the shooting at Santa Fe high school and the one in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 people dead — two of at least 21 school shootings so far in 2018 — Trump has vowed to improve school safety. He formed a school safety commission to explore the problem. 

After Parkland, the president publicly considered backing gun control measure like increasing the age requirement to buy a long gun. But Trump turned from that approach and advocates "hardening" schools as a target over increased gun control. 

Contributing: The Associated Press 


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