President Donald Trump woke up in California on Wednesday morning and enjoyed a scenic helicopter ride over sunny Los Angeles before jetting off to Missouri aboard Air Force One. He toured a Boeing plant and talked up his party’s tax reforms, and then he jumped back on his plane, White House bound.
At no point during the day did Trump himself publicly acknowledge the thousands of students walking out of school nationwide to protest gun violence and lawmakers’ inaction. (His favorite news network barely mentioned it either.)
Over Twitter, where he frequently shares his thoughts and feelings, the president posted several messages Wednesday morning on unrelated issues. He opined on “unfair trade practices,” his desire to overhaul U.S. infrastructure, “business fundamentals” and “very important Ambassadors and Judges” whom he would like to appoint more quickly.
In one late-afternoon tweet, Trump applauded the House for passing the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. With a bipartisan vote of 407-10 in favor, the act aims to finance school safety training and security equipment, but it is not a gun control measure. But by late Wednesday evening, he had not acknowledged the school walkouts.
He was trailed by White House pool reporters all day, but Trump didn’t speak to them about the protests, either. White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told the press that the president “shares the students’ concerns about school safety” on Wednesday afternoon. “That is why he supports measures like Fix NICS and mental health provisions.” (Fix NICS refers to proposals to close loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.)
Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told HuffPost by email Wednesday evening that the president respects Americans’ First Amendment rights and “will continue working with students, educators and other school personnel to prevent tragedies like the Parkland massacre.”
“President Trump remains committed to ensuring this is the last generation of American children to face the threat of school violence,” the statement continued. “The Administration is taking immediate action now while also pursuing a long-term strategy to develop the very best and most effective policies for protecting America’s schools.”
Students mobilized in response to a shooter’s rampage Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.
Powerful imagery taken outside schools across the country Wednesday showed young people holding up signs calling for tighter gun control laws. Organized through Youth EMPOWER, a branch of the Women’s March, students were encouraged to observe 17 minutes of silence ― one for each victim ― before heading back to class.
Trump seemed to echo student activists’ calls for reform directly after the Florida shooting, but he has since backed down.